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What the Salt Lake City guy really said

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 07:36:56 -0800
Message-Id: <4.2.0.58.20011030071952.01622ba0@garth.idyllmtn.com>
To: Debi Orton <oradnio@albany.net>
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

Okay, let's take a look at this.  This was written by "Ed Mitchell,
senior graphic designer" for the 2002 Olympic Games, according to
his email signature.

>>What can I say, I really think the majority of our users are very
>>satisfied.

This is probably true, of course.  If this is his criteria on which
the site is judged, then there's certainly a very good chance that
the majority of his users are satisfied.

Of course, it does exclude some minority groups of users, specifically
people with certain disabilities.  The question then is whether or
not he has an obligation to include them in his criteria for
success.  I certainly think he does, and so the _new_ question is
"how do we convince him of that?"

>>We recently identified many opportunities to make the site more
>>accessible, but to be honest, a lot of the improvements in web technology
>>in the last 10 years are due to things that seem to not conform with W3C
>>accessibility guidelines.

This is also true.  There are a number of "new technologies" (as WCAG1
euphemistically calls them) which are not built according to accessibility
principles.  Of course, there are a number of things he could do which
_do_ conform with the W3C's guidelines -- it's just a matter of making
sure he knows what those are and how to do them.

He says he's identified ways in which the site could be more accessible,
but they've chosen not to do those -- most likely it's because he has
the impression that to make an accessible web site, you need to remove
certain "inaccessible components" from the design of the site.

Note that this is entirely a _self-generated problem_ on _our_ behalf.
The only reason people really think that accessibility and {JavaScript,
Java, Flash, multimedia, images, whatever} are incompatible is because
someone in the web accessibility field either said it, or said something
similar so badly that it was misunderstood.  There's no dark conspiracy
of Flash developers or JavaScript programmers going around saying, "oo,
don't make your web site accessible, you'll have to remove _our_
pretty baubles."  There _is_ a large community of very reactive and
well-meaning people who send very mixed messages and who cite,
dogmatically, hard-to-understand "scriptures."

>>We try to keep the page weight down, alas it's
>>heavier than it "needs" to be, but we'd start sacrificing a certain amount
>>of content should we lighten if too much.

What he's saying here is that there's a conflict between the amount
of content you use, and the amount of time it takes to download the
page.  Nothing here is incorrect; there is indeed such a conflict,
and the web accessibility community again has no clear answer on this,
especially when we consider the needs of people with cognitive
disabilities to gain information through non-textual means.

(Yes, I realize that you can reduce file sizes and the like -- and I
am sure this guy realizes that as well.)

>>Had i to do the site again, i'd
>>probably not use frames, but a js include for the masthead, but some people
>>have problems with that too.

Notice that he's fallen into the trap of "frames: bad", "javascript:
bad."  Which doesn't represent a failing on his part, but rather on
our part, as a community of informed people who want to spread the
news about web accessibility.  Our own pages -- mine, WAI's, HWG's,
WebAIM's, etc. -- spell it out clearly:  frames aren't used here,
javascript's not used here, images aren't used here.

>>In the end I think it's important to recognize
>>what you're saying has merit.

I notice how nobody actually seemed to respond to or read this.  It
looks to me as if he's saying there's merit in what's being said
about web accessibility (note that we don't KNOW what was actually
said, nor the tone in which it was said, since that part of the
message wasn't quoted by Debi).

This is the key here -- the fact that he's admitting there's 
something to it, because that's our way in the door to further
dialogue.  Outraged gnashing of teeth, condemnation of his
organization or their professionalism, lawsuits will just make us
look like a bunch of angry pedants.

>>In that spirit, i'd like to suggest you check
>>out this site: http://www.susx.ac.uk/spru/, representing the furtherment of
>>study into applied technology, advance understanding of the relationship
>>between STI developments and society through pioneering multidisciplinary
>>research,

Notice that he's not necessarily saying "this site and this long
run-on sentence is an argument AGAINST accessibility."  He's saying
"as long as you can suggest your pet causes to me, here's one that
you might enjoy as well."  Did anyone (else) check out the page and
see if it has anything we can learn?  (Or did we all just assume 
this guy is "the enemy" and thus anything he'd say is anti-
accessibility rhetoric?)  What did you get out of the Sussex site?

>>Ed Mitchell   /  Senior Graphic Designer  / 2002 Olympic Winter Games
>>XXX.XXX.XXXX office  /  XXX.XXX.XXXX cell  / XXX.XXX.XXXX fax

Even if he did send it as part of his signature in private email,
I don't think it's kosher to distribute his cell phone number in
public email without his permission, BTW.

--Kynn

--
Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
Technical Developer Liaison
Reef North America
Accessibility - W3C - Integrator Network
________________________________________
BUSINESS IS DYNAMIC. TAKE CONTROL.
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http://www.reef.com
Received on Tuesday, 30 October 2001 10:48:17 GMT

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