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FW: Letter in '.net' magazine

From: SHARPE, Ian <Ian.SHARPE@cambridge.sema.slb.com>
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2002 10:35:15 +0100
Message-ID: <FA94B04D5981D211B86800A0C9EA284101142372@cames1.sema.co.uk>
To: "WAI (E-mail)" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Dear all,
The following article is from Julie Howell's (RNIB UK) latest 'Campaign for
Good Web Design' newsletter. Amongst other things it calls the WAI (and the
RNIB) a bunch of hypocrits for promoting web accessibility while not
conforming to these standards on their own web sites!!! I've just about
calmed down after having read the article which isn't long and would
encourage you all to do the same. An email address to the offending magazine
is provided at the end in case you feel the need (as I do) to respond. I
shalln't say any more. Enjoy!!!
Julie Howell writes:
Letter in .net magazine

Hi everyone.  I begin this update with a request for your help!

The current issue of .net magazine (November 2002), a UK magazine about the
internet, features a letter about web accessibility from Mr Robert Pember.

The letter reads as follows:

What will happen next?  The focus of attention has moved away from the 'spam
and cookie' issue, to 'if your site isn't accessible to disabled people, you
could be done for discrimination'.  Every web designer and web site owner in
the land is worrying about the possibility of facing legal action, while
still receiving adverts for Viagra every day and losing sales thanks to
having to publicise the fact that they use cookies.  I am no disputing the
fact that people with disabilities deserve the same access to the internet
as able people, but I think the new initiative is unreasonable as it will
cost an unimaginable amount of time and money for every web site to comply.
After watching the accessibility video supplied on the September 2002 CD, I
processed my sites through 'Bobby' (which tests site accessibility) to see
what accessibility problems there were.  After seeing what needed to be
changed on my sites, I decided to see whether the sites for the RNIB and WAI
complied.  Expecting full marks for accessibility, they were no more
compliant than mine - hypocrites!  The RNIB and WAI are putting the blame on
webmasters for accessibility limitations, but shouldn't they make the
special browsing software more compliant?  Surely it wouldn't be too
difficult to interpret tables so they read in the correct way and
automatically overriding font, background and visual settings despite how
they are implemented, giving the user the power to change them to their
needs.  Are they really too lazy to save site owners a lot of work and
improve the software, or is it all just a ploy to take our minds away from
the continuing problems on the net, which the Government fails to resolve
due to lack of understanding and plain ignorance?

The editor of .net writes We'd be extremely interested in hearing other
people's views on this issue.  Should web designers be held legally
responsible to ensure that their sites are accessible to all, or is this the
responsibility of those who make the browsing software?

I am preparing a response on behalf of RNIB.  However, I encourage anyone
with any views on Robert's letter to write to the magazine in response.
This is a fantastic opportunity to keep web accessibility on the magazine's
agenda.   The email address for .net is haveyoursay@netmag.co.uk

The main points I'll be raising on behalf of RNIB are as follows:

- RNIB isn't a Government funded organisation, and we're certainly not in
the business of campaigning to deflect public attention away from other
important issues.
- RNIB doesn't develop the software that blind people use to surf the web.
Rather, we lobby Government, industry, software developers, businesses and
web designers to consider the needs of people with disabilities and their
social responsibility to the disabled people who wish to use the internet.
Wherever we can we work with those responsible for developing web software,
systems and policy in an enabling role.
- There is no 'new' law.  The 1995 Disability Discrimination Act has
required web-based services to be accessible since 1 October 1999.
- RNIB and WAI's web sites are accessible and do pass the Bobby test.
- RNIB does campaign for web technologies - including browsers and the
specialist tools that blind people use - to be accessible and compliant with
WAI's User Agent Accessibility Guidelines.  However, web designers should
also follow the WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to ensure that
their code is compliant.  Compliant, accessible code results in content that
works well on any technology, in any circumstance and whether or not the
user has a disability.
- In answer to the question posed by the editor, ultimately it is the
responsibility of the person or company that owns the web site to ensure
that the content is accessible to people with disabilities.  This isn't just
'a good thing to do'.  With 8.6m people with disabilities in the UK with a
combined spending power estimated at around 45bn it makes good business
sense.  Accessible web sites also perform well (download quickly, work well
on various technologies) as well as delivering on Tim Berners-Lee's vision
that the web should be for everyone, regardless of disability.

Good luck!

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Received on Thursday, 10 October 2002 05:42:12 UTC

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