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Re: The Difficulty of Talking About Accessibility for the *

From: David Jakob <David.Jakob@xist.com>
Date: Tue, 29 Sep 1998 20:48:05 -0400
Message-ID: <003301bdec0c$0638f280$3a3fbfce@djakob.magmacom.com>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, "Kynn Bartlett" <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
Kynn et al.,

I can certainly relate to your frustrations -- albeit from a slightly
different angle.

I manage an Internet training program for an agency of a Canadian federal
government department. In anticipation of encouraging Canadian federal
government departments to build more accessible Websites, I have been
developing and preparing a training course on accessible Web design for
delivery in October and November. We coupled our traditional marketing
mechanisms with a media blitz in local Ottawa publications to heighten
awareness of this course, and in essence, heighten awareness of what should
a highly politicized issue in Ottawa. As our national capital, home to
dozens of federal departments and agencies which are mandated to make their
information available to all Canadians, and as a centre of hi-tech where
organizations want to be on the cutting edge, Ottawa should be a prime
target for this course.  To date, registration has been abysmal.

We've been running a successful Internet training program since 1994 and
seemed to have always responded to current and future needs in our program.
In those years we have never undertaken an advertising campaign as we are
currently doing. Yet even with this aditional exposure the environment
doesn't seem to acknowledge the importance of this issue. To further
frustrate my efforts, in the spring my company did a site redesign for a
client in conjunction with the HTML Writer Guild's accessibility project to
implement and test the WAI Page Authoring Guidelines. More than four months
have elapsed since we handed over the materials for inclusion on the site
yet the redesign is still not available.  I'd like to use this site as a
reference to encourage more of my clients to do the same but I'm

Perhaps everyone is waiting for the likes of Microsoft and Netscape to
miraculously solve these accessibility problems with future versions of
their browsers, thus saving all of us countless hours and dollars in
redesign. Or maybe our target market is already on the cutting edge and
implementing accessibility solutions. Of course, on both counts, I'm not
holding my breath...

I suppose then we are left to persist regardless of who responds, how they
respond, and how many respond, to necessary efforts that must precipitate
change. Hhhhmmm, it must have been the recent visit to Ottawa by Nelson
Mandela that inspired me...

"We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always
ripe to do right." Nelson Mandela

David J. Jakob,     XIST Information Services & Technology Inc.
Ottawa, Ontario     phone: (613)234-9621  fax: (613)234-9564
http://xist.com     David.Jakob@xist.com    1-888-ASK-XIST

-----Original Message-----
From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Date: September 29, 1998 4:51 PM
Subject: The Difficulty of Talking About Accessibility for the *

Recently, as you may be aware, the HTML Writers Guild has been
very supportive of accessibility initiatives -- declaring one
month earlier this year as 'Accessibility Month', setting up
a project to provide feedback on the page author guidelines,
running a class on accessible web design.  We've also extended
a discount on membership dues to Guild members who are
physically disabled.

The problem, though, comes whenever we try to talk about what
we're doing and impress our members (more than 75,000 of them)
with the importance of designing pages that can be accessed by

If we leave it vague, and don't mentioned handicapped users, they
simply blend into "everyone", and most web authors are completely
unaware that we don't simply mean 'people who use Netscape AND
people who use MSIE' but rather 'people who can't even see
pictures on the screen'.

However, whenever we mention 'handicapped users', 'designing for
the blind', 'disabled member discounts', or 'physically challenged
individuals', we get flames.  Not from the people who can see,
mind you -- but from angry physically disabled folks who are upset
not at what we're doing, but with the terms we use.

They don't like 'blind', or they do like 'blind' but they don't
like 'handicapped'; this group over here doesn't like 'disabled',
while this one can't stand 'challenged'.  Each action we think
we're doing that's a step forward -- such as letting web designers
know that not everyone uses a visual-based browser -- seems to be
a step backwards in the eyes of some, and we hear about it in

It's discouraging for us, too.  The Guild administration really
doesn't like being flamed over semantics, especially since it should
be obvious from context that we're not going out of our way to be
either insensitive or insulting.  The headaches of trying to figure
out what the 'right terms' to use are daunting, and may even lead
some to figure "why bother??" -- especially when it seems there
are _no_ phrases we can use that will please _everyone_.

So, should we simply not mention blind web users when talking about
designing for universal accessibility?  Should our material on
voice browsers focus on phones and cars and not mention people
who can't see?  Is it better to leave out the idea of blind people
entirely when talking about aural style sheets?  Do you need to
know that handicapped folks exist in order to use the ALT attribute

Or should we simply accept word-choice flames as the "price" of
doing the right thing?

Kynn Bartlett  <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
Chief Technologist & Co-Owner, Idyll Mountain Internet; Fullerton,
Enroll now for my online stylesheets (CSS) class!
The voice of the future?
Received on Tuesday, 29 September 1998 20:49:34 UTC

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