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Re: Research on Accessibility

From: Suzan Dolloff <averil@concentric.net>
Date: Sat, 18 Apr 1998 20:17:36 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: lostcat@slip.net
Cc: w3c-wai-rc@w3.org
Wanted you to see an email that came across the WAI lists today. (He
cross-posted it, no less!) This is from Kynn Bartlett, the guy who asked me
to join the HWG Governing Board. My reply to him follows in the next send.

At 05:32 a.m. 04/17/98 -0500, Suzan Dolloff wrote:
>First, I am not a "Disabled Person," I am a person with a disability. If
>you use my name, that should be capitalized, not my "Physical Condition." A
>minor detail, perhaps, especially since I'm sure no offense was intended
>(you didn't capitalize it in subsequent sentences, after all), but one
>warranting comment nevertheless. 

Except that terms like this, especially when dealing with cross-
cultural issues -- one person in England, one person in the U.S.
-- rarely mean the same thing to the same people.

I think that worrying about specific terms distracts us from
realizing that we're on the same side and share common goals
here; it's possible that the original poster's culture could have
lead her to use a term that's completely appropriate and fine, but
which may offend you.  These things happen -- and in general, I
feel it's best to look beyond the particular terms and instead
focus on greater issues, especially if we understand what she

>While the objectives of this body and others on the Internet are noble, the
>reality is that disabled people who are ALREADY here are often swept aside
>in pursuit of some ideal disabled audience. [...]

On the other hand, there are a lot of people who _are_
physically disabled, blind, handicapped, whatever you want to
call it, who _can't_ use the web or the net.  The vast majority
of them aren't online, in fact.

For a sighted person to get on the net -- like me -- it's
pretty easy; go to Fry's, buy a computer system for $1200,
plug and play, and hey, I'm surfing the net within hours. 
Someone who is blind doesn't have it nearly that easy.  There
are many more steps necessary before a non-sighted person can
surf as easily as I can.

There are some of you who have done it -- who have taken the
technical steps and financial steps and logistical steps
necessary to put yourself on the web.  And that's _great_, and
I applaud you for it.  Years ago, when getting on the net
wasn't so easy, I had to use crusty old Apple //s to dial
up into a unix system; those hurdles were a lot larger than
the very minor ones facing today's sighted newbie.

However, the newbies -- sighted or not -- may be the very people
who we need to study.  The ones who are NOT able to use the
net now; the ones who don't think they can do it or get
access to it.  Not those of us who have already figured out our
own adaptations for whatever obstacles we faced.

>I have a problem with Al Gilman's suggestion that you "interview a few
>expert computer and web access evaluators," as I don't believe this is an
>accurate representation of today's, or even tomorrow's, Internet user,
>physically disabled or not.

Ahhh, here we have a slight contradiction. :)  You see, this
is the kind of reasoning which I'm supporting -- contacting the
people who aren't experts -- but in my mind, any blind or
disabled person who is using the net now, in its current state,
is _already_ an "expert" at overcoming the obstacles to getting
on the net.  (Or if not an expert, at least a veteran.)

Veterans are worth hearing from.  So, though, are the rank

>It has been my observation that disabled people hold a kind of morbid
>fascination to those who are not disabled.

That's a pretty broad generalization; I don't think it's true to
the extent that you may think it is.  I can only speak from the
standpoint of a non-disabled person, though.  :)

I understand not wanting to be the "star performer" -- "oh
lookie, she used the potty without wetting herself" -- but I
don't think you can discount everyone who wants to see universal
accessibility come about as someone caught up with morbid
fascination over your disability.

Me?  I think it's a symptom of my overactive sense of justice.
Too many comic books as a kid, don'tcha know.

--Kynn, Superhero

Kynn Bartlett <kynn@hwg.org>
Governing Board Member, HTML Writers Guild
Education and Outreach working group member,
  Web Accessibility Initiative
Received on Saturday, 18 April 1998 21:15:56 UTC

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