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free/not free proprietary

From: Phill Jenkins <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>
Date: Thu, 2 May 2002 10:32:05 -0500
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <OF13CF38EF.6F7A9564-ON86256BAD.00531F46@pok.ibm.com>

starting a new subject thread - and adding one reply comment

Nick Kew <nick@webthing.com>@w3.org on 05/01/2002 09:21:41 PM
Subject:    [w3c-wai-ig] <none>

On Wed, 1 May 2002, Martin Sloan wrote:

> In relation to this whole 'free/not free' proprietary argument, my
> reading of the legislation is that it only applies to software that a
> disabled person specifically requires to access the site. I.e. not to
> downloads which everyone needs to use the site - there is a
> difference. For instance, everyone needs to download Acrobat to view
> PDF files, but if this was charged for then disabled people as a group
> would be no worse off than those who are not.

Adobe's viewer is proprietary, and Adobe would (presumably) be within
their rights to charge for it.

But the PDF format is published, and AFAIK there are no restrictions
on software supporting it.  Free viewers such as xpdf and gv have
been around for years, and free software is also available to create PDF.

Extending your hypothetical case suggestion seems to raise further issues:

Now, supposing there were additional accessibility features for PDF
that were supported by some viewer, but only in a viewer costing
serious money.  What then?

And how does it affect the situation if the accessibility features present
problems - such as proprietary, unpublished extensions and/or onerous
licencing requirements - in the way of free software supporting them?
This is a very pertinent question in the context of microsoft's
policy of developing proprietary protocols and using lawyers to prevent
third-party products working with them.

> Although that could be interpreted to mean that screen readers should
> be provided free...

As of course they are, though the free products may lack the marketing
budgets of commercial offerings.
Nick Kew

Phill writes:
The free ones may also lack the technical support and features provided by
so called for sale products.  But U.S. ADA and other disability rights
regulations I'm familiar with don't require the owner to provide any of the
assistive technology.  For example, brick & mortar building owner's are not
required to also provide the motorized wheelchair, only to provide the ramp
and not charge for using it.  The ramp slope may not be gradual enough for
all wheelchair users and or wheelchair types.  Manual wheelchairs cost less
than motorized ones and require more arm strength to operate up a ramp.
The building owner and or architect's responsibility is to meet the ramp
technical accessibility standards.  Also, how the ramp is constructed,
using proprietary patented truss, or a patented concrete forms, or plain
old brick and mortar and is not part of the accessibility standard.

In my opinion, the web developer has a responsibility to meet the technical
accessibility standards for the website being built, and not charge any
extra to persons who have a disability, but he doesn't have to provide the
screen reader.

I think the more this list and the W3C working groups bring into
consideration the policy issues, the more we get away from our charter to
focus on the technical accessibility issues that need to be solved by the
author, browser, assistive technology, and end user in concert together.

Phill Jenkins
Received on Thursday, 2 May 2002 11:32:42 UTC

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