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re: User Responsibility for Web Accessibility

From: David Poehlman <poehlman1@comcast.net>
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2004 09:52:40 -0500
Message-ID: <003d01c410e6$7e29d610$6401a8c0@handsontech>
To: "wai-ig list" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

I think the subject of this thread is miss leading.  The user is not 
responsible for "web accessibility..." but I hope you will read on so you 
will see what the user is responsible for.

First, It is helpful to put information on your pages about any obstacles 
that might arise that you can think of.  Maybe a special page for that.  I 
have seen these accessibility pages and in some have found quite helpful 
information.  I have seen pages that offer help to use the site and found 
some of them to be quite helpful.

Having said all this, I will say that it is the user's responsibility to 
gain at least the level of knowledge required to be able to recognize in 
those instances where it is possible if a problem they are having has to do 
with their configuration or something the author did or perhaps even to be 
able to over ride the author's miss intent if needed.  The sad fact is that 
this requirement falls most squarely on the shoulders of those who most need 
to be able to access content that might not be written in ways that make it 
available to all in other words, not to wai guidelines etc.

It is also the user's responsibility to learn and understand any 
technologies that they need to use to access the computer if those 
technologies are complex enough to warrant this need again, at least to the 
point where they can figure out if they can fix a problem by adjusting their 
technologies.  I saw for instance, a screen reader user who figures that all 
graphics are useless so made sure to set all items of a graphical nature not 
to be rendered by jaws.  Then, when failing to be able to access something, 
comnplains that it is inaccessible.  This is poor judgement on the part of 
the user.  The same would be true if someone decided to turn off their 
monitor and then complained that they couldn't use their computer and yes, 
I've seen this happen too.

I agree that there needs to be a lot of continuing education out there and I 
agree that there will always be folk who till the day when interacting with 
the web is as easy as listening to the radio or watching television or 
picking up a book and reading it will choose badly and stick to it though 
and those, we can do nothing about.  There are three areas of responsibility 
though and I can speak to them as someone who has worked on standards 
development, screen reader development from a testing point of view, testing 
of developped webs and some development guidance.  They are:
1> The site developper and this is not news, has the *responsibility* to do 
the right thing with regard to making their content available and 
appropriately interactable if necessary.
2> The user agent/software developper needs to follow good practices in 
developping for the broadest possible audience and this includes all the 
components from installation to use and configuration.
3> The assistive technology developper must ensure that the services they 
provide and the software they develop will both foster ease of use and a 
robust rendering of *propperly* implemented work.

None of the three above are exempt and all three fall short.  What dismays 
me most is the assistive providor who thinks that bad code should be 
rectified and so provides a work around for it.  I can understand that 
otherwise, there would be a lot of uproar, but this practice and others can 
discourage or defeat progress toward accessibility adoption by authoring and 
others.  I think a better approach would be to let the user know that there 
is something rong with the page and to extract and provide the email address 
of the web master to send a note to with the explanation attached.  The user 
wouldn't really have to know much about the code or do much but click send 
from the error box.  This would not provide immediate accessability nor 
would it guarantee access, but if done correctly and an address also were 
included for someone of a technical bent who could take this up, perhaps 
someone in the wai for instance, we might have a new leg to move forward 
with.
Received on Tuesday, 23 March 2004 09:53:19 UTC

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