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Re: Amazon and Sony Are Requesting That The Accessibility Requirement Be Waved for E-Book Readers

From: Charles McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru>
Date: Thu, 08 Aug 2013 17:31:15 +0400
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org, "Catherine Roy" <ecrire@catherine-roy.net>
Message-ID: <op.w1h2idrby3oazb@dhcp235-171-red.yandex.net>
On Thu, 08 Aug 2013 02:52:23 +0400, Catherine Roy  
<ecrire@catherine-roy.net> wrote:

> Having read both articles, I still feel there is cause for concern. I  
> would also like to point out that not only people with visual  
> impairments are affected by this situation. For example, as a person  
> with a physical impairment, I can attest that some hardware is difficult  
> if not at times impossible to use. I was recently offered a kindle as a  
> gift and find it very difficult to operate some of the controls and have  
> had to develop tedious physical workarounds. This is also often the case  
> with mobile phones. The thing is, with a physical impairment, you often  
> have to try it out in advance to know if you can use it and in my  
> experience, that is rarely possible. (Yes I know this list may be less  
> concerned with hardware obstacles but from personal experience, I think  
> it is a mistake to ignore that aspect when it comes to accessibility and  
> I believe WAI's recent work on applying WCAG to ICTs is indicative a  
> real need in that area).
> So in general, I still think this waiver request is worth keeping on our  
> radar.

It seems that the request demonstrates a commitment to ignoring all but  
the "mainstream" in search of offering some people cheaper devices, which  
means those with "special needs" will pay for more expensive "fully  
accessible" systems.

It is true that the cheapest devices are not necessary to read ebooks in  
general - you can use a more expensive device, which is actually designed  
for a broader range of users. So I don't think there is any technical  
issue about what would be needed to make the relevant devices more  

My personal opinion is that this is not particularly enlightened or  
community-friendly politics on behalf of the applicants. This issue  
applies to a particular country where I don't live, nor is it my role to  
determine how their legal system treats problems of access.

There is a technical issue about whether the statements in the application  
are correct.

For example, there is a claim that displays would need to be changed to  
support general-purpose communications services, but it seems to me that  
for the purposes of enabling *reading* (the function of these devices)  
more widely accessible this is not the case. The changes required are  
essentially software, enabling e.g. zoom, or text-to-speech.

Likewise I think the claim that more expensive processors and more  
batteries are required to enable speech output is disputable. While speech  
support may be limited, and impact on the performance and battery life to  
some extent, it is not clear how much of a change is required to systems  
that support audio output. (There is a different, socio-legal question of  
whether readers without an audio system should be required to have one, of  

As a global community the wai-ig has something of an ill-defined role in  
seeking support for non-technical work in particular communities. I think  
this information is important to many in this community and is probably in  
scope. However, I would appreciate some clarification from W3C, who is  
responsible for this group and what is considered in or out of scope for  
the list. (Again, I have a personal opinion that leans towards a broad  
interpretation of what is appropriate here, but I don't make the  

Absent that, I think it is reasonable to discuss the technical accuracy of  
the claims in this list, but I am not sure if statements along the lines  
of "This looks a lot like a miserable attempt by 3 companies to weasel out  
of some basic responsibilities to users in the USA as legally determined  
by the people of the USA, through some fairly carefully selected rhetoric  
that doesn't all stand up to careful scrutiny" are actually acceptable  



Charles McCathie Nevile - Consultant (web standards) CTO Office, Yandex
       chaals@yandex-team.ru         Find more at http://yandex.com
Received on Thursday, 8 August 2013 13:31:46 UTC

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