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RE: Media - Suit Over Airlines' Web Sites Tests Bounds of ADA

From: Andrew McFarland <andrew.mcfarland@unite.net>
Date: Mon, 07 Oct 2002 17:34:37 +0100
Message-Id: <>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

At 00:48 08/10/02 +0900, Shashank Tripathi wrote:
>Ditto for the web, because you would need some additional effort
>(however significant, or not, that may be) to maintain a website that
>caters to different groups.

This is, in general, not true.

A website that is standards complaint and follows the WAI guidelines will, 
in general, be easier to develop and easier to maintain than a 
non-standards inaccessible one. Some authoring tools and techniques may 
make it easier to develop a non-standard, inaccessible website, but it will 
almost always be a maintenance nightmare.

Certainly the costs involved in making a website accessible are slight when 
compared to the costs involved with making several `resolutions' of 
newspaper. IANAL, but I suspect only reasonable extra cost is required. 
Most cinemas in Belfast have spent a small amount of money to allow 
quadriplegic visitors to watch films. I don't know of any that have spent 
the huge amount of money required to mean quadriplegic visitors can easily 
use any seat in the building. I suspect most people, quadriplegic visitors 
included, would agree that is fair.

>The number of groups of people based on
>certain characteristics, handicaps for instance, is limitless.

There will always be people to whom a particular website is inaccessible. 
That doesn't mean that you shouldn't have to think about making it as 
accessible as possible.

If I have a building, I can easily make that accessible to most people in 
wheelchairs by adding a ramp to the front door, and if I have a public 
building I have a responsibility to do that. By adding a ramp people in 
wheelchairs can get in and out of the building themselves. There is no way 
I can make the building accessible to, for example, my Aunt, who is almost 
completely paralyzed from the neck down. Even with a ramp she would need 
assistance getting in and out.

The fact that the building cannot be made accessible to my Aunt does not 
mean I don't have to make it accessible to ordinary wheelchair users.

A well written HTML document is an abstract representation of some 
information. I can never make that information accessible to someone who is 
unable to understand that information. However, a well written HTML 
document will be accessible to anyone who can understand that information, 
because it can be transformed into a format that suits their needs. A badly 
written HTML document cannot be transformed - at worst it may even be tied 
to one specific display system. If it can't be transformed then it cannot 
be accessed by some.

The fact that some people will never be able to understand the information 
in a document does not mean I don't have to make it accessible to everyone 
- particularly as making it accessible is (usually) cheap and easy.

>Failure to cater to a certain group does not and should not be construed
>as discrimination.

What is discrimination?

>There would be different copies of the paper, just like versions of a
>website. The arthritis folk would buy and read the version that suited
>them best. So this argument does not hold water.

The beauty of the web - and generalized markup - is that you don't have to 
produce two versions of the paper. You just produce one, and then it 
automatically adapts to the needs of the user. An accessible website 
doesn't represent an increase in cost or inconvenience for anyone, except, 
possibly, some additional development time.

When dealing with printed paper, the end user has no control, and so the 
printer has to produce several versions, considerably increasing the cost 
and inconvenience. The additional cost never goes away.

Received on Monday, 7 October 2002 12:41:22 UTC

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