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

From: Isofarro <w3evangelism@faqportal.uklinux.net>
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2002 19:42:48 +0100
Message-ID: <004501c2708c$d74bda00$020044c2@laptop>
To: "Nissen, Dan E" <Dan.Nissen@UNISYS.com>
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

> I am trying to see the differences that make it a requirement to make a
> "accessible" website for an airline and does not require the New York
> to provide a newspaper for those same people.

The web is a digital and textual medium with no fixed presentation. This
flexibility allows a well designed web document to be used and rendered in a
format that is convenient for the reader and independant of the author.
Paper can't transform to the requirements of the reader, but the web can.
The limitations of paper are not limitations of the web.

> The reason that you see so little attention to the disabled by business is
> that the market is miniscule and most of the disabled do not have the
> to buy most of the goods and services of the society.

Surprisingly this statement is not valid. I have seen reports from usability
groups that suggest the disposable income of disabled people is significant
enough to allow them to spend it online. I don't have the reference on hand,
but if it will change your impression of the need for accessibility, I will
try to track it down.

The interesting fact of the case spawning this thread is that it is a blind
user taking action against an airline because of discrimination. This points
out the rather obvious (and overlooked) fact that this person can _afford_
to buy an airline ticket.

Although _affording_ an item isn't necessary, especially with the example of
a blind person administering orders for a library. Here the blind person is
buying online as part of his job - so he doesn't need the income himself.

If the argument is that most blind people can't afford airline tickets so we
shouldn't create accessible websites, then following that path will lead you
to the conclusion that we shouldn't be doing business on the web at all
because the vast majority of people don't have a computer with internet
access at home. Both arguments here are, IMO, strawman arguments.

> A startlingly large percentage of blind people do not have jobs.

And I _know_ of a number of blind people having full time jobs. I knew a
successful lawyer that who was totally blind. It didn't prevent him from
doing a super job. Good enough for him to emigrate from South Africa to
Canada. For a lot of intellectual jobs that require Internet Access, being
blind isn't a restriction. Badly written websites are the unreasonable

> For instance, the
> company can provide someone to type in the data for the disabled where
> allow their non-disabled to write in a form.

Is it your opinion that this is a better solution than building an
accessible website?

> In any case, and more pertinent to this forum, I am very concerned with
> tone that implies it is trivial to provide a fully accessible web site.  I
> do not believe this to be the case, after watching this forum for a number
> of months and seeing many discussions terminate without a clear answer

Discussion is discussion - there's only so much navel-fluff that can be
toyed with. In the case of label versus title, why not set up two pages
using each technique, and then trying both pages out in various devices and
user-agents. Then this can be turned into a summary report highlighting the
successes and failures. The end result will be a practical experience and
understanding and probably a cleaner answer.

> Must I test with 25 or 150 different versions of browsers?

Try this testing pages with the following:
http://valet.htmlhelp.com/access/ -- there's both an online and offline

> It is clear that if you don't test it, it probably doesn't work.

I don't agree. An experienced web-developer will have a good feel whether a
website is generally accessible. By making serious use of the three
validators above sorts out the technical aspects of accessibility. What's
left is the judgement factors. As an example:

A script can detect missing alt attributes in an image -- that's the
technical aspect. You can put in an alt attribute, but no automated tool can
tell you whether the alterative text you specified is actually relevant - no
amount of browser testing will find this, it takes a human being with
reasonable judgement to determine whether the alt text is a useful and
reasonable alternative to the referenced resource.

> And, bugs in all the software are appearing regularly, requiring

No. Don't work around software bugs. Inform the vendor that it needs to be
fixed. It is a software problem, and should be fixed in software itself.
Software that doesn't have to guess the correct structure of HTML is a lot
less buggy than software that needs to do this error correction. Avoid
relying on the browser to correct your HTML.

> I think we need to
> define a standard and allow people to require usage of browsers that
> some standard when talking about accessibility.

There is one already. Browsers should support the recommendations published
by the W3. We as authors should comply with these same recommendations.
User-agent manufacturers have the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines, we
authors have the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (and other
accessibility guidelines such as IBM's and RNIB's).

Do we really need to re-invent the square wheel, when the nice shiny round
one is available?

> And, many people want to use the free OS and the free browser that is not
> compatible with the standard, it seems.

Free browsers tend to be more standards compliant than their proprietory
equivalents, plus they also work on free and non-free platforms.
Received on Thursday, 10 October 2002 14:41:55 UTC

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