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Re: AOL drops e-mail address for accessibility

From: Paul Davis <paul@ten-20.com>
Date: Sat, 27 Mar 2004 12:09:14 -0000
Message-ID: <001101c413f4$675ccee0$1bbbfea9@JAMESU>
To: "Andrew Kirkpatrick" <andrew_kirkpatrick@wgbh.org>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>


I feel a certain amount of empathy for you as you have grabbed a tiger by
the tail and I do acknowledge it is not your tiger!!

None the less here goes.

I was generalizing true, but their overall performance against previous
promises made are not exactly overwhelming, in fact they struggle to even
make whelming! I quote directly from the AOL website days after the NFB/AOL
settlement and or fiasco.

"When the challenges confronted by people with disabilities are known,
solutions can be incorporated in the research and design of information
technologies. So we have taken steps to ensure that our employees are
informed about the challenges faced by people with disabilities and aware of
the technologies available to improve the user experience. We have also
worked closely with people from the disability community whose input and
feedback is essential to helping us design products and services that meet
the needs of our users."

So why close the feedback/email link if their own agreed settlement was
being followed ? I quote.

"Internet policy should foster individual choice and empowerment in the
economic and social dimensions and rely on individual decision-making for
determining the products, services and content available on the Internet.
Practices developed in the crucible of the private sector and the
marketplace can best direct the development of the interactive medium."

This clause still amazes me as it is a set up for an escape clause. Which
follows almost immediately.

"Public policies should be market-driven and industry-led. Policies should
be developed collaboratively, with input from industry leaders, government
officials and, perhaps most importantly, consumers and other stakeholders.
Public or private gatekeepers should not be allowed to prevent new entry,
deny business opportunities or limit the free flow of information in the

Please read the first sentence carefully and think. It overrides all the
following sentences. I have in an effort not to be accused of cherry picking
quotes or quoting out of context copied the whole section. This suspicion is
confirmed later.

"In sum, we seek to maximize the economic and social benefits of the
Internet with industry-led, market-driven policies that allow this dynamic
medium to reach its full potential."

I translate that as "we will do a bit for you where it is economic to do so,
but do not get in our way, as market forces rule the day, and we do not
consider the disabled community as profitable or powerful enough, and we
have a bigger pocket anyway."

The agreement goes on to state.

"We have designated an employee to serve as an accessibility officer, whose
job responsibilities will include (i) the distribution to our employees of
materials which describe the accessibility issues involved in the
development of the our products and services; and (ii) the planning of
seminars and classes at which disabled users of our products and services
will be invited to discuss the accessibility issues which they have
encountered, developments in assistive technology and how accessibility best
can be addressed in AOL products and services; and (iii) monitoring AOL's
application of this Accessibility Policy to its products and services. "

So once again why close the feedback/email link, where is he/she now and how
did this media player creep through the accessibility check system? Or do
they feel enough water has passed under the bridge and with any luck no one
will notice? I move on;

"Employees with principal responsibility for the development of products and
services will consider and address on a regular basis issues relating to
disability accessibility. AOL has established a product development
Accessibility Checklist. The Checklist enables designers and publishers to
identify important access issues when designing new products and services."

Hmmm....I don't think so. However there is more which could explain how this
media player crept through the system.

"AOL product group managers will consult and refer to the Accessibility
Checklist when developing new products and services and consider that their
decisions regarding accessibility reflect both intended applications and
relevant business demands."

I believe the last three words in that clause says it all. Prosecution
rests.......for the moment anyway.

Please, please would someone prove me wrong, nothing would make me happier
than to send an email of apology and admit to this list I got it all wrong.
By the same token it would be nice if I have not got it all wrong, then an
apology was forthcoming from AOL. But pardon me if I do not hold my breath
in anticipation.

Paul Davis
Received on Saturday, 27 March 2004 07:10:01 UTC

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