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Re: Judgment in the SouthWest case.

From: <tina@elfi.org>
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 21:59:13 +0200
Message-Id: <200210221959.g9MJxD403269@localhost.localdomain>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

On 22 Oct, Jaz-Michael King wrote:

 [May I - respectfully - ask that we on this, a professional, mailing list
  stay with the standard 78 characters per line ? Thankyou.]

  After posting my first letter in this thread, noting that the judgement
  had come through, I have been following the debate in various places.

  It is quite depressing, but as much as I find Slashdot and the various
  #html-channels on IRC rather upsetting, what I see here is angering me.

  I am certain that this will be considered an overly emotional reaction,
  but be that as it may. I would like to offer a comment nevertheless - but
  be warned that what I want to write is negative, it focus on problems,
  but it is a description of reality as I and others see it.

> that's their concern, I for one would stand hard against making this
> a regulatory requirement for business. acceptable and accessible
> alternatives are all that's needed, and businesses that choose not to
> do so are losing money by not serving that section of the population,


> what comes next? requiring human translated web content so Welsh speakers
> can buy tickets in their native language? it's not about making things
> easy, it's about making them accessible.

  These two paragraphs illustrate quite clearly two very large mistakes.

   Firstly: the idea that given free rein a business would voluntarily
  adjust its practices out of fear that customers would vote with their

   For many years this was a prevalent idea and attitude; even today there
  are many, many places where people in wheelchairs and without vision
  cannot go, or shop - not because it is impossible, but because it is
  inaccessible. A classic are the concrete pillars many stores place in
  front of their entrance to avoid thieves using cars to break the store

   They often, even today, stand too close together for a wheelchair to
  pass. There is such a store nearby; it sells auto parts. Many people who
  need wheelchairs can drive, yet they cannot buy a new windshield wiper.

   This is why many countries have laws which mandate that physical stores
  are - within reason - made accessible. These laws have existed for quite
  some time now, and has not driven anyone out of business, but they have
  levelled the playing-field for customers. Without those laws, businesses
  *do not care*. Yes, it is a shame that we need to regulate caring, but
  we do.

   Secondly: the idea that making information accessible also implies that
  it must be available.

   Information is the essence, here. If two people, one sighted and one
  blind, attempt to read a text in Welsh and neither one know the language,
  then they cannot partake of it - it isn't available to them.

   If two people, one sighted and one blind, attempt to read a text 
  represented by an image, and both know the language, then only the sighted
  person will be able to get the information - it is inaccessible without
  vision. He, or she, may know Welsh - but the text is represented in such
  a manner that it doesn't matter. He, or she, could speak Klingon for all
  that it helps.

   Accessibility does not mean making a text available to everyone, even if
  they do not read the language in which it is written. Accessibility means
  that the text is available to anyone who reads that language *even if they
  do not have perfect vision*.

   The difference is clear. If two people have the same skills (they speak
  Welsh) then an accessible document means that they can both get to it and
  apply that skill. An inaccessible document - such as the PDF of that
  judgement - means that it doesn't matter what skill the blind person have;
  it is impossible to apply it.

   To quote someone on Slashdot:

      "Thats like filing a suit against Ford for not making their cars
       drivable for the blind....."

   This, and other arguments like it, is - undiplomatically put - crap. The
  work done with accessibility has nothing to do with making it possible
  for a person who cannot see to drive, but it does have something to do
  with giving two people of otherwise equal capability equal possibility.

   Ask yourself whether you'd enjoy being told that you are not allowed to
  drive your car on a highway. Not because your car cannot handle it; not
  because you cannot drive; not because the highway is overloaded, but because
  you - inside the car - sit in a wheelchair.

   Ask yourself what it is like to be judged based not on what capabilities
  you have in relation to what you aim to do (you speak Welsh, or you are an
  experienced driver), but on what capabilities you have which are UNRELATED
  to the task at hand.

   For issue number one: SouthWest does not want to go out of its way in
  order to do anything for anyone. A company is not an ethical or moral
  entity; and the people involved have been given the wrong advice.

   For issue number two: The task at hand - ordering a ticket - is not in
  any way impacted by the ability to see *unless SouthWest has made it so*.
  And they have. Noone has asked them to make their planes flyable for the
  blind; nor has anyone demanded a law making such an insane act mandatory.

> hope all my pages will one day conform to this standard. in the meantime,
> making sure that someone is available on the phone ready to read the page
> to them will suffice, we don't need more laws to deal with this.

   That is your view - and I strongly disagree. You are free to hold yours
  as I am to hold mine, but I find more and more that using the above
  arguments is hurting those which would benefit from accessibility.

   Making a web service accessible is undoubtfully "within reason"; there
  is no point and no reason to argue that it would be costly or that it
  would be like making the impossible possible.

   The more people who believe in that, the less accessible information
  will be.


 Tina Holmboe           [Windrose@DALnet] [tina@elfi.org] [tina@htmlhelp.com]

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Received on Tuesday, 22 October 2002 16:05:55 UTC

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