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Re: Washington Post editoral: Claims Against Common Sense

From: Brian Kelly <lisbk@ukoln.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 18 Nov 1998 13:15:14 -0000
Message-ID: <017301be12f5$7b6cadc0$3c92268a@ulpc-bk-fire.bath.ac.uk>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org, Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
Kynn Bartlett  said:
>The amount of "inconvenience" necessary to create accessible websites
>is MINIMAL, especially when compared to the amount of time, energy,
>and money that is regularly invested in inaccessible, unusable
>"cutting edge" advances.
>In other words, putting a table in HTML costs a FRACTION of the cost of
>making, say, an animated, interactive java map that only a subset of
>your audience can use.

Although I agree with most of the comments on this thread, I disagree with
this statement.

There can be a significant cost in deploying authoring tools which create
accessible websites.  Not only the cost of the authoring tool itself, but
also costs in training, etc. in using a new tool.  As has been pointed out,
many HTML authors use free tools (such as Netscape Gold) or conversion tools
in word processing packages (such as MS Word's Internet Assistant) because
they are (a) free and (b) have a shallow learning curve, being integrated
with the user's browsing / wp tool.  (For example many organisations
recommend MS Word as an HTML authoring tools as the support costs are very
small for existing Word users, although this solution results in very poor
quality HTML and makes it difficult to provide and maintaing ALT text for

In addition there are costs in deploying new accessible formats (e.g. CSS)
in a world in which there are many millions of copies of flawed browsers
(try printing a document containing a CSS .margin-left elemnt to indent the
text in an accessible way - no misuse of tables - in Netscape 4 and see what
happens).  Restricting the use of CSS to "safe" features is expensive,
especially as tools don't enable you to do this.

Solutions such as the user-agent negotiation for safe CSS features (as
provided at the W3C Style Sheet gallery [1]) are also expensive as they
require (expensive) programming expertise to deploy.

I'm not saying that organisations shouldn't be prepared to make this
investment, simply that WAI is doing a disservice in implying that the
solution is always cheap.

Brian Kelly

[1] http://www.w3.org/StyleSheets/Core/

Brian Kelly, UK Web Focus
UKOLN, University of Bath, BATH, England, BA2 7AY
Email:  b.kelly@ukoln.ac.uk     URL:    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/
Homepage: http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/ukoln/staff/b.kelly.html
Phone:  01225 323943            FAX:   01225 826838
Received on Wednesday, 18 November 1998 08:15:22 UTC

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