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Re: the official definition [of web accessibility] from the W3C is wrong

From: Michael Gower <michael.gower@ca.ibm.com>
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2015 06:32:46 -0800
To: Gregg Vanderheiden <gv@trace.wisc.edu>
Cc: Steve Faulkner <faulkner.steve@gmail.com>, Gregg Vanderheiden RTF <gregg@raisingthefloor.org>, Kate Perkins <kperkins@hugeinc.com>, IG - WAI Interest Group List list <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <OFEE2956BF.63B223C0-ON88257DEE.004EC00D-88257DEE.004FE72D@ca.ibm.com>
I like the term "functional limitations". I used "functional disabilities" 
in a paper to describe what has now become "situational disabilities". 
Combine them, and you arrive at a nice general conceptual description:
In any given situation some or all of us will experience functional 
limitations. Accessibility is concerned with enabling each of us to 
overcome those limitations or disabilities.

Michael Gower
Senior Consultant
IBM Accessibility

1803 Douglas Street, Victoria, BC  V8T 5C3
voice: (250) 220-1146 * cel: (250) 661-0098 *  fax: (250) 220-8034

From:   Gregg Vanderheiden <gv@trace.wisc.edu>
To:     Kate Perkins <kperkins@hugeinc.com>
Cc:     Steve Faulkner <faulkner.steve@gmail.com>, IG - WAI Interest Group 
List list <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Date:   02/12/2015 01:31 PM
Subject:        Re: the official definition [of web accessibility] from 
the W3C is wrong
Sent by:        Gregg Vanderheiden RTF <gregg@raisingthefloor.org>

that is exactly the definition of disability that we use and teach.

A disability isn’t something a person has — it is something they 
experience when they cannot use the world  (or use it effectively) the way 
it is designed.

In my class i ask them to imagine that they are not any different than the 
are today — but that everyone else had wings.    Suddenly  they would find 
that the world was designed differently.   Houses wouldn’t have stairs. 
just ‘landings’  where people landed when they  flew up to the next floor. 
  And we would all be ‘disabled’ in every house we entered.    We would be 
no less able than we are today — but we would experience a disability in 
all houses without stairs ( or ladders)  - and even with ladders we could 
carry nothing up- (hmmmm    i guess nobody would call it “upstairs” 
anymore so i would say….)     we could carry nothing up-floor. 

Great way to put it.

This also makes it a continuum with all the people who do not have classic 
disabilities but still cannot use the interfaces effectively with the 
abilities they have.

Accessibility then becomes “extending the usability to include more people 
 — something usability people are always doing. 

In this case - it is extending it to include people experiencing 
disabilities due to functional limitations. 


Gregg Vanderheiden Ph.D.
Director Trace R&D Center
Professor Industrial & Systems Engineering
and Biomedical Engineering University of Wisconsin-Madison
Co-Director, Raising the Floor - International - 

and the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure Project -  http://GPII.net

On Feb 12, 2015, at 7:50 PM, Kate Perkins <kperkins@hugeinc.com> wrote:

Hi Steve, I have read your comment and all of the follow up comments, and 
I think that this it is vital to continue this conversation.

I am an unofficial accessibility advocate at a Huge, a digital agency. 
I've spent the past year talking to different people and departments in my 
company about accessibility practices to make it a part of our baseline 
offering for web development, not an "extra."  One of the results of this 
process was that we decided to "re-brand" accessibility within our agency, 
as that word carries some weight and preconceived notions.  For project 
managers, it sounds expensive and like it might dip into the bottom line. 
For Developers, it sounds like difficult and thankless work that will keep 
you working late night.  For business owners, it sounds like a distraction 
from more important business goals like SEO optimization and building the 
next big feature.

The key takeaway here is that was wasn't an "us" against "them" 
conversation.  The main thing people think about it "how does this affect 

So I presented a "re-branding accessibility" presentation that was well 
received, and drove home a new definition of accessibility.  Our 
definition: "Disability is the deficit between user and system capability. 
 Is it the responsibility of the system, not the user, to bridge that 
deficit."  Huge is known for it's user experience work, so this hit home 
for everyone.  This may not always be the right definition; it may depend 
on the audience.  But for us, this reset the conversation about 
accessibility and removed existing negative assumptions from the 

Food for thought.  Because of this experience, I have to disagree with 
Phil.  For a conversation about accessibility to affect change, you have 
to position it as a tool to achieve the goals that your audience already 

— Kate Perkins Horowitz

Kate Perkins Horowitz / Business Analyst
T. 718 880 3805
www.hugeinc.com / www.twitter.com/hugeinc

On Fri, Feb 6, 2015 at 3:17 AM, Steve Faulkner <faulkner.steve@gmail.com> 
discussion starter:

"We need to change the way we talk about accessibility. Most people are 
taught that “web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use 
the Web”— the official definition from the W3C. This is wrong. Web 
accessibility means that people can use the web."

source: Reframing Accessibility for the Web




Received on Monday, 16 February 2015 14:33:21 UTC

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