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Re: Dealing with Artistes

From: Paolo Graziani <graziani@iroe.fi.cnr.it>
Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 15:43:03 +0100 (MET)
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.OSF.3.91.981209154103.21102B-100000@iroe.iroe.fi.cnr.it>
Following the discussion about the access to art, I wish to present
my point of view on this subject.

I think that, in the discussion about accessibility, we have to
establish a list of priorities and distinguish between barriers
which prevent us from accessing pieces of information convertible
into an alternative presentation, and other components which are
not important for the navigation and that, in addition, require the
subjective interpretation of a sighted person.

The problem is more general than that of the accessibility of a
hypertext. I am totally blind and I have this problem every days,
when I walk in the street of my town (Florence). I'd like to have
a description on demand of the environment: the landscape of the
town, the sunset, buildings, churches, hills, the river and (why
not?) the pretty girls walking in the streets. 

In the same time, I need information about the state of traffic
lights, the location of crossing for pedestrians or of bus stops;
I need to know the number of the bus arriving to the stop or the
names of the stops, when I am inside a bus.

Well, I can request the intervention of the local administration to
provide crossing and buses with adequate electronic systems, or
other solutions, to give me information enough to be able to move
alone in the town but I thing that nobody can ensure to me a total
accessibility to everything a sighted person can appreciate by
looking about. Such a generalized request would not result

In the same way, the accessibility of graphical information
represents a real problem for us when this component is crucial for
the access to other part of a document or for the comprehension of
the subject, but a "purely visual expression" of an artist can be
neglected with no real loss of information. An artistic work is
addressed to a specific sensorial modality and any alternative
description results inadequate to produce the same effect on a
person who cannot have direct access to it. Even a sophisticated
description represents the interpretation of the narrator. It can
be useful  but it cannot replace the feeling produced by a direct
perception. This difference can be dramatic in the case of abstract

An artist cannot be charged of the problem of universal design. We
cannot expect that the whole world is transformed according to our

On the other hand, other classes of disabled have requirements
which often are not compatible with those of blind people. For
example, a congenitally deaf person has difficulties, not only to
access speech and sounds, but often also written information, in
the case of too abstract subjects or complex document architecture,
because of lack of language knowledge.

And what about cognitive disabled and mentally retarded people?

If authors or artists had have to take into account of all these
problems, they probably would not be able to produce any piece of

In conclusion, we have to accept some limitations to the general
accessibility, by adopting a pragmatic approach. I agree with the
statement "accessibility is a right and not a privilege" but we
must carefully interpret such a principle.
                                                   Paolo Graziani


Paolo Graziani
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
Istituto di Ricerca sulle Onde Elettromagnetiche "Nello Carrara"
Via Panciatichi 64
I - 50127 Firenze

tel +39 055 4235259, fax +39 055 4235204

E-mail: graziani@iroe.fi.cnr.it
Received on Wednesday, 9 December 1998 09:43:09 UTC

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