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RE: User Responsibility for Web Accessibility

From: Jim Tobias <tobias@inclusive.com>
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2004 10:43:14 -0500
To: <Kurt_Mattes@bankone.com>, <wai-ig@cookiecrook.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000001c410ed$8ea6dbd0$c8fea8c0@24gig>

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Kurt_Mattes@bankone.com [mailto:Kurt_Mattes@bankone.com] 
> Sent: Tuesday, March 23, 2004 7:12 AM
> To: tobias@inclusive.com; wai-ig@cookiecrook.com; w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
> Subject: RE: User Responsibility for Web Accessibility
> 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.  I'm not blaming you, or anyone in particular.  But this stuff *is*
hard to learn.

> 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.  I can write 
> a book, but if 
> you don't read it you will never learn what it contains.  Is 
> the author 
> obliged to read it to you and make sure you understand?  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?

>  If a user, 
> any user, does not understand something, it is their 
> obligation to seek the necessary knowledge.  It does 
> not matter what it is, a kitchen appliance, toy, game, 
> stereo, or web site,
> if you want to use it you must learn how.  I think this is 
> why directions, owner manuals and user guides exist.  Gaining 
> knowledge may not always be an 
> enjoyable experience.

Hi Kurt,

I was not writing from a "mandatory" perspective.  I agree that beyond
meeting the accessibility requirements, designers should not be on the hook.
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.  For most of the important factors, people with
disabilities are disadvantaged beyond the reality of their functional
limitations.  That is, it's bad enough to have low vision, but low vision
users may be predominantly poorer, older, less well educated, less socially
connected than non-disabled users.

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.
Received on Tuesday, 23 March 2004 10:43:13 UTC

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