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Fwd from CHI-WEB: Amazon's version for the Visually Impaired

From: Denise Wood <Denise_Wood@operamail.com>
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2001 13:32:02 -0500
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <3C2406DA@operamail.com>
>===== Original Message From Denise Wood <Denise_Wood@operamail.com> =====

Apologies if this message gets sent twice. The first attempt at sending 
reported an error in communication so I am re-sending assuming the first 
attempt is now lost in cyber space! Please see my comments below Scott's 
bullet points:

1.  Does universal design mean that the experience of one person has to be
    limited so that another person can have a similar experience,
    e.g. a slick, flashy design?

2.  If there is a technique which some people can use to speed up their
    use of information, but other people can't use and will be slower
    at processing information, should the technique not be used?
    What if there is no other equivalent technique that increases
    the speed that a person can use the information?

3.  Does a person using access technology have the same experience as
    someone not using access technology even if they are referencing
    the same web page?


You have raised some really important points here. I am grappling with those
issues daily in my role within a University as academics and developers resist
strongly the notion of reducing the functionality and/or state of the art
features of their Web pages to accommodate a base "universally accessible" web

A recent example might illustrate the point that universally designed sites
can provide better functionality for all users - not just people with

I describe that briefly here:

One of our requests from faculty was to develop an interactive simulation of a
satellite communication system. I have spent a great deal of time working with
our designers to ensure they are aware of the W3C and Section 508 guidelines
and make every effort to follow these guidelines in their development work.
The programmer met with an academic from the School concerned with the
development of this satellite communications program. While the academic was
open to suggestions, neither the programmer nor the academic would accept that
there was any way of reproducing this interactive experience for visually
impaired users since the output is essentially a simulated screen display of
what look like satellite dot patterns. At the very least we agreed we could
use alt tags and longdesc to describe the simulation's functionality but that
of course represents a different experience than the original concept.

I emailed Norman Coombs asking him if he had come across anything that could
meet the requirement of the simulation in a way that could be accessible for
people with disabilities. He sent me a prototype of an auditory graphing
program which has a similar display (scattergram plots). Although a different
application entirely, the academic and programmer could immediately see the
potential. Essentially the auditory version narrates the options (ie x and y
coordinates) that can be changed by the user and the changed visual display is
accompanied by auditory signals (a bit like Morse code) which change pattern
according to the pattern of dots on the visual display. This is true universal
design - the auditory signals in fact make the simulation a more enriching
experience for all students. The ability to selective turn off visuals and/or
sound provides maximum flexibility and caters for different learning styles as

In summary, to me, universal design is challenging our traditional "narrow"
view of what can be achieved. It forces us to move outside our current
experiences to be innovative in order to create powerful, flexible web
environments that cater for a variety of user needs.

Just my experience but thought it worth sharing....


Dr Denise L Wood
Lecturer: Professional Development (online teaching and learning)
University of South Australia
CE Campus, North Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000
Ph:    (61 8) 8302 2172 / (61 8) 8302 4472 (Tuesdays & Thursdays)
Fax:  (61 8) 8302 2363 / (61 8) 8302 4390
Mob: (0413 648 260)

Email:	Denise.Wood@unisa.edu.au
WWW:	http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/staff/homepage.asp?Name=Denise.Wood
Received on Friday, 14 December 2001 13:32:36 UTC

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