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Re: Misrepresenting accessibility / confusion with usability

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@sidar.org>
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2004 07:57:28 +1100
Message-Id: <874CC610-7C43-11D8-8D42-000A958826AA@sidar.org>
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
To: Christophe Strobbe <christophe.strobbe@esat.kuleuven.ac.be>

Hi Christophe,

summary: The first article you mention sounds more good than bad, but 
not very good. The second article you mention sounds more bad than 
good. I haven't read them, so that's as much as I have to go on.

Some more detailed thoughts:

I think giving people the idea that it is good to make a text-only 
version of a site, in any introduction to accessibility, is a bad idea. 
I normally like the work that UsableNet do, but I am perturbed by the 
advertising that goes with their product for making a text-only site - 
just as I have been worried about how similar products are used. It 
isn't that a text-only site is an inherent bad thing, it is just that 
it only improves accessibility for a very small minority of people with 
disabilities, and it is in my opinion generally a poor choice for where 
to put effort.

On the one hand, "no publicity is bad publicity", and anything that 
raises people's awareness of accessibility as an issue can be helpful. 
On the other hand I think the time has passed when that was the primary 
goal. Sure, there are people who still don't really understand why it 
might be an issue. What is important is a reasonable explanation of how 
to make things accessible, along with a recognition that this is a 
field in development. Some things are clear, some things are under 
discussion. Anything that gives a set of instructions should note which 
is which, or at least that the discussion exists.

This is important. I suspect we all agree that alt attributes on images 
are a good thing for accessibility. I am certain we disagree on how 
important they are compared to other accessibility features - in part 
because we each tend to start with a particular target audience in 
mind, whether that is people with intellectual disabilities, people who 
have very low vision (what some people call "legally blind"), people 
who are deaf, or people who are all three. Prioritising for the 
universe isn't an easy task. Yet there is broad agreement on a number 
of important accessibility features that should be included in the Web. 
There is disagreement on whether some things are accessibility features 
or just useful in general (which has an impact because of the political 
nature of accessibility requirements in many places) and there are 
plenty of topics still under discussion.



On 19 Mar 2004, at 00:24, Christophe Strobbe wrote:
> A while ago I came across issue 36 of the British magazine Web Pages 
> Made Easy, which contained an anonymous article on "Building 
> Accessible Web Sites" (pages 16-21). The first page is filled with a 
> wheelchair symbol, so I hoped that, at last, mainstream computer 
> magazines were beginning to devote some attention to web 
> accessibility. However, the article discusses only usability and 
> hardly mentions any guidelines or techniques for making web sites 
> accessible for people with disabilities.
> Issue 37 of the same magazine contains an article on "Make an 
> accessible site"
> The article also contains the following tip: "If you are creating 
> pages where you need to include graphical content, it is always a good 
> idea to create a 'text only' version of the same document, with a link 
> to it from your main site. This at least then gives the visitor an 
> option to view this more accessible page."

> I think this kind of articles doesn't do a good service to web 
> accessibility. What do you think?
Charles McCathieNevile                          Fundación Sidar
charles@sidar.org                                http://www.sidar.org
Received on Monday, 22 March 2004 16:01:52 UTC

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