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RE: Disability Type Analysis of WCAG 1.0

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Sat, 25 Aug 2001 07:33:51 -0700
Message-Id: <a05100301b7ad65a21ad5@[]>
To: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
At 12:32 PM -0700 2001/8/24, Charles F. Munat wrote:
>There are many possible explanations for Kynn's results other than a bias
>("trend" is a euphemism) in the WCAG. The most obvious is that Kynn may have
>simply assigned checkpoints to categories of disability incorrectly. (Note:
>I am referring here to a bias in the document, not in the people who created
>that document.)

That's why I encourage people who care about this to run their own
tests. ;)

>So what does this mean? It means that Kynn's experiment tells us NOTHING.

Not necessarily.  The most important thing is how it relates back to the
original spark of this discussion which was:  People who have read the
guidelines have come away thinking that they're all about access for
blind people, and all about access by screenreaders.  This is not just
a hypothetical case, or even anecdotal; you can find solid evidence which
says folks think "WCAG 1.0 is about blind people, or about blind people

>But the biggest problem with this sort of informal experiment is that it may
>fool us into thinking that we DO know something. And that may send us off in
>directions that do nothing to improve the guidelines. Ask yourself, aren't
>you tempted to believe that the apparent bias toward some disabilities means
>something? It's hard NOT to be affected by these sorts of results.

And just the same, it's hard not to read WCAG 1.0, which spends about
75% of the guideline space dealing with blindness issues, and not come
to the conclusion that accessibility is mainly about blind people.

See, it all actually does make sense -- the study of "how much column
space is spent on <x>" can let us know whether or not people who read
WCAG incorrectly are doing it because they're "just stupid or something"
and "didn't read carefully"; or, if perhaps when WCAG was written, the
authors didn't realize that the amount of space spent primarily on
screenreaders and blind people would lead to a lot of misinterpretation.

I think there's a value in examining not only WHAT we wrote, but how
we wrote it.  You gave an example of splitting a "write clearly"
checkpoint into a half dozen, to elevate the importance of one group's
needs -- I think we need to consider whether or not that kind of
thing was (unconsciously) done before, producing an artificial
_apparent focus_ on one group.

The good news is that, as you say, WCAG 2.0 checkpoints are being
written more broadly, which will give a better sense, when someone
reads it, that we aren't just talking about people who can't see
pictures, but about everyone who faces artificial barriers to web

>Instead of looking for bias in the WCAG, why don't we look for needs that
>haven't been addressed? Has it occurred to anyone that it might take more
>checkpoints to address the needs of one group than it does another? (Kynn
>acknowledges this in his comments about photo-epileptics.) Who cares how
>many checkpoints address this group or that group? This isn't a contest to
>see whose is longer.

That kind of analysis would be great.  I would love to see it. ;)
[Especially about section 508.]


Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
Technical Developer Liaison
Reef North America
Accessibility - W3C - Integrator Network
Received on Saturday, 25 August 2001 11:10:44 UTC

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