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Am I off-topic? ( was Section 508 Question on Javascript...)

From: Jon Hanna <jon@spinsol.com>
Date: Wed, 14 Feb 2001 15:10:51 -0000
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <NDBBLCBLIMDOPKMOPHLHAEKNCOAA.jon@spinsol.com>
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Aren't we trying and really
> only trying to
> make sites accessible to *people* with disabilities?

It depends on the definition you have of "accessibility". The purpose
of the WAI, and many other accessibility initiatives is to make
websites accessible to people with disabilities. This is of
particular importance to those of you who are working in countries
government sites or all sites must be accessible because of civil
rights legislation. (This is unfortunately not the case here,
although it could perhaps be argued that http://www.coolchoices.ie -
the latest site produced by our govt. - discriminates against the
sighted since we can see the horrible disaster).

Another definition of "accessibility" is making sure that everyone
can see the page. Much of the earliest work on web accessibility was
predicated on the idea that it doesn't matter if a feature is lost to
a user because of a personal disability or because of the technology
they are using, they should still be able to use the website.

- From the point of view of civil rights for the disabled alone there
is a good argument for defining accessibility in this way. It focuses
on gearing websites to a range of abilities without reference to the
disabilities of some users. This is in sync with what many disability
rights groups are saying; "don't ask what we can't do and why and
how, ask what we can do, and let us do it".
Focusing on the disabled as a "special" group can lead to patronising
behaviour, and casual discrimination. In the case of the web I think
that the "text-only site here" ghettos are an example of this
attitude. (Amusingly I've even seen "click here for text-only site"
!)

- From the point of view of most websites the latter definition of
accessibility is the important one. If someone can't use my sites I
don't really care why. I build sites to be used by people and I get
paid to do so, if someone can't use it then I am not doing my job and
my client is suffering in terms of lack of publicity, sales etc.
depending on the purpose of the site. It's none of my business
whether or not a user has a disability, it *is* my business if
someone can't use the site.

So while I do think the main focus of this list should be on
accessibility wrt. physical or mental disabilities, I don't think you
can claim a site is fully accessible if it doesn't meet the
requirements of the other definition. Now if the majority opinion of
this list is that the second definition of accessibility is off-topic
I won't mention it any further (except when discussing WAI policy,
since I do think the WAI brief should be extended in this regard).
However I think it is a concern of most people here and a valid
topic. (oh, and whatever ppl think I'll try to work on shorter mails
:)

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Received on Wednesday, 14 February 2001 10:10:28 GMT

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