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Re: amazon's new web site in wired:

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2001 09:20:31 -0800
Message-Id: <a05101005b847ce2945ca@[]>
To: "David Poehlman" <poehlman1@home.com>, "wai-ig list" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
My full comments may be interesting, as we're still discussing the
topic of multiple "versions" (not the best term) of a site -- or at
least Scott still is. :)

At 2:09 PM -0800 12/17/01, Kendra Mayfield wrote:
>Are alternative versions of websites necessary or even a good idea?

Alternative versions of web sites are not only a good idea, they're
a great idea and are necessary for the evolution of the web and for
continued access to content by people with disabilities!

When the W3C's web content accessibility guidelines were written,
the only workable model was a single, static source which was
intepreted by an intelligent user agent.  The assumption was that
accessibility would result from the accessible content being
translated into whatever the user requires for access.

This has proven to not be a workable solution for a number of
reasons -- including the cost of development of specialized
browsing software and assistive technology, lack of consistent
and implementable specifications, and the simple fact that HTML
is a poor language for expressing transformable web
semantics, but it's too entrenched to replace now.

This means that it makes sense, whenever possible, to shift the
burden back to the server.  Servers are cheap and easy to
upgrade, compared to deploying new software or hardware to every
user out there.  Intelligent servers can carry the burden of
access easier than intelligent browsers -- and right now, we
don't have anything even approaching an intelligent browser
available, as the leading browsers all fall short on implementing
the basics of web standards.

The increasing use of database-driven template systems and
content management software on major web sites makes it easy for
companies like Amazon to provide alternate interfaces for various
users -- be those users with disabilities, with non-English
primary languages, with hand-held devices, and so on.  A dynamic,
up-to-date, and complete alternate web site should be no more
than a case of simply configuring a new template, with the 21st
century server systems available today.

The bigger challenge -- and this is where Amazon may have fallen
short -- is understanding how best to tailor those alternate
interfaces to the needs of the specific user group.  The W3C's
Web Accessibility Initiative has concentrated on "one size fits
all" design, which means there is very little guidance which
says how to design user interfaces _only_ for blind users.  It's
not as easy as just removing graphics or substituting alt
text, but this is an area that still needs a lot of research
and investigation before the problem will be solved.

Dynamic generation of web sites opens up a whole new realm of
possibilities for greater access, and this is just the start of
sites designed with the user's needs foremost.  Let's not be too
quick to condemn Amazon for their goals, even if their implementation
may need work.


Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                 http://kynn.com
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain            http://idyllmtn.com
Web Accessibility Expert-for-hire          http://kynn.com/resume
January Web Accessibility eCourse           http://kynn.com/+d201
Received on Thursday, 20 December 2001 12:34:26 UTC

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