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Re: The Nonsense Rhetoric of Web Accessibility (was: background-image in CSS)

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 18:20:45 -0800
Message-ID: <3C48D7FD.1060206@munat.com>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Kynn Bartlett wrote:

> Yes, but what you're saying and what other people are saying is, frankly,
> bizarre, inflammatory, divisive, and downright stupid.
> A background image which is related to the content, which conveys
> content available elsewhere on the page, which can be safely turned
> off and still convey the essential purpose of the page, which
> enhances the ability of the visual user to use the content without
> hurting the accessibility to those who cannot see visual content,
> and which complies with WCAG1 -- which is what Randal proposed,
> if anyone had bothered to read it -- is in NO WAY AT ALL anything
> like store owners discriminating against black people.
> Not at all.  It's not.  It's simply not.  If you claim otherwise,
> you are insane, deluded, lying, or woefully misinformed.

Aw, c'mon, Kynn. Why don't you tell us what you *really* think?

Topics shift as discussions lengthen. It seemed pretty clear to me (and 
to several other people, I think), that Rust was eventually suggesting 
that the author has the right to decide *anything* (and everything) 
about his pages. The comparison to racial discrimination is brutal, but 
I stand by its accuracy.

With each group that suffers oppression, we go through the same cycle. 
It happened with the women's movement, the civil rights movement, the 
gay rights movement, and it is happening with the disability rights 

When you first point out a form of discrimination, the practitioners of 
that discrimination rush to defend themselves, and the first line of 
defense is usually the right to "free expression" or the right to do 
whatever they want with their property.

The issue was not whether Rust had a right to decide what to include in 
his pages, but whether he had a right to decide what to provide to 
visual users and what to provide to non-visual users and whether this 
resulted in a "separate and unequal" situation. Thus the comparison to 
segregated facilities for minorities was apt.

> The author determines the essential purpose of a web page.  This is
> not discrimination.  This is not equivalent to racism.  This is not a
> major threat to accessibility in the slightest.

True. But that was not what we were arguing. Maybe that's what Rust was 
arguing, but if so, he phrased it in such a way that several readers got 
the wrong idea -- so it is certainly not what *we* were arguing.

> The GREATER threat to accessibility is nonsense rhetoric such as
> this, which only serves to make web accessibility activists look
> like complete and utter fools, thus making it harder for those of
> us who are not utterly foolish to stand up and say, "you have to
> make sites which can be used by everyone" while some other loon
> is off saying, "...which means that I, the user, have full
> control over whatever you want to say!"

Ah, yes, the ever popular "unity" argument. We've been hearing a lot 
about this one lately, haven't we? To be successful, we must unite! So 
everyone do what Kynn says!

Look, people disagree. And they have a right to. And no matter how much 
or how often you foam at the mouth, I am going to continue to disagree 
with you, and to pursue accessibility in my own way. I think it will do 
your blood pressure a world of good it you simply get over it.

Oh, and if you're going to create straw men, try to be a little more 
subtle. This one is easy to spot.

Charles F. Munat -- amused
Seattle, Washington
Received on Friday, 18 January 2002 21:19:29 UTC

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