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Re: User Responsibility for Web Accessibility

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@sidar.org>
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2004 14:44:42 +1000
Message-Id: <7215CD4A-8DCE-11D8-B291-000A958826AA@sidar.org>
Cc: <wai-ig@cookiecrook.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, <Kurt_Mattes@bankone.com>
To: "Jim Tobias" <tobias@inclusive.com>

Hi folks,

having kicked a bunch of this discussion, and being a semantic web 
person, I thought I would chime in...

On 24 Mar 2004, at 02:43, Jim Tobias wrote:

>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Kurt_Mattes@bankone.com [mailto:Kurt_Mattes@bankone.com]
>>
>> Jim Tobias wrote...
>>> What percentage of
>>> consumers understand how to configure their browsers?  I would guess 
>>> less
>>> than 5% of consumers with disabilities have the necessary 
>>> information and
>>> confidence.  Is that their fault?  If not, why should they be 
>>> punished?
>>
>> What is so difficult about learning how to configure a browser, user 
>> agent
>> or any other application?
>
> I don't think you could mean this, really.  There's a general 
> consensus that
> computer technology is way too complex to configure.  My guess is that 
> fewer
> than 5% of any given *non-professional* user population changes any 
> defaults
> at all.
[snip]

That's the results of actual user research at Monash University. And it 
is well known that whatever the situation should be, there are lots of 
problems in practice. The reason for the field of usability is that 
people don't learn to configure things properly, and this has serious 
consequences when the things they don't learn are military hardware, 
industrial machinery, etc.

>> Yes it is the users fault, no designer or
>> developer can put "...the necessary information..." into someone.  If
>> learning is the issue, teaching is the solution.
[snip]
>> Or should all books be written in extremely simple language so even 
>> those with
>> the lowest level of intellect can comprehend it?
>
> Actually, in a blue-sky sense, this is a good idea.  Hence the success 
> of
> the "... for Dummies" series, Cliff Notes, etc.  Anyone from the 
> Semantic
> Web want to chime in?

Is there any reason why books shouldn't be written like that? Are we 
assuming that only the most intelligent 5% without reading difficulties 
are a worthy audience for books? What does that imply for the idea that 
people should be reading these books?

>>  If a user,
>> any user, does not understand something, it is their
>> obligation to seek the necessary knowledge.
>
> I was not writing from a "mandatory" perspective.  I agree that beyond
> meeting the accessibility requirements, designers should not be on the 
> hook.

Well, it depends on whether we expect real people to use the 
information. We can demand that people become more intelligent and read 
the Koran and the Torah every day, but that won't make it happen. If 
we're trying to convince people to follow what we tell them, it is 
helpful to at least ensure that it is presented to them in ways they 
are likely to understand.

So for designers who are building puzzles that are meant to keep people 
out, the accessibility requirements are pretty basic. But for a 
designer who is trying to communicate, presumably the requirement is 
that they actually achieve that goal, no? It becomes pretty open-ended. 
As I understand it, the goal of WAI is to provide tools and techniques 
that explain what can be done. To make this useful there needs to be 
some rough consensus on where to draw the lines. I believe the decision 
will end up being somewhat arbitrary, but there are principles on which 
we could develop consensus...

> I was relating to the fact that the encounter between a person and a
> technology takes place in a complex setting: the user's previous 
> experience
> with technology, their degree of confidence, their expectations of 
> what the
> technology will do, etc.
[snip]
> So when we expect these users to configure browser settings, it may be 
> an
> unreasonable expectation.  I'm not blaming web designers.  The 
> solutions lie
> in entirely other domains.

Without blaming anyone, it seems that the most productive approach is 
to look at the domains where the solutions lie, and how to ensure that 
Web designers and users have a similar understanding of those in 
reality. Which probably involves some decisions, some discussion, ...

cheers

Chaals
Received on Wednesday, 14 April 2004 00:48:05 UTC

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