W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > April to June 1999

Re: QED & Marshall McLuhan

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 11 Jun 1999 11:23:26 -0400 (EDT)
To: Ann Navarro <ann@webgeek.com>
cc: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>, Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.10.9906111024000.3260-100000@tux.w3.org>
Ah. it appears I misunderstood what was being conveyed. It is clearly
possible to give the jargon name for the things I described (this kind of
marker is called...). And I agree that a description of a Pratt-Whitney Jet
engine which failed to convey the right information is wrong.

I think the issue here is what the boundaries of accessibility are. If I
heard the question about Picasso in the normal course of conversation then I
would answer yes- that I think it is precisely when you understand the
symbolism of Picasso that it is accessible. And the deeper an understanding
you have, the more accessible it is.

Accessibility is about understanding. It is very difficult for a blind person
to understand an image, and very easy for many of them to understand some
"equivalent text", particularly in the context of searching the web for
information. Think about the challenge of making a painting by Rothko (who
does big squares of colour - for example all rust red with variations in
shade and hue and tone) to a blind person. Or even to me. If I never saw
Rothko paintings again my life would probably not be very different, since
they are inaccessible to me already. But if somebody could explain to me what
was interesting about such a painting, then they would make a difference to

In terms of making a particular site more accessible, there are things we can
do. Just as there are with accessibility for people who are blind, deaf, have
motor disabilities, etc there is a whole continuum of accessibility for
people with learning disabilities. There are a corresponding range of things
we can do, from providing multimedia presentations of the material on a site
which are designed to teach deaf children with learning disabilities, step by
step, how to implement an XML parser, to making our writing style clearer and
providing more graphic illustration of the ideas we express.

Although I think the WAI guidelines are very good, I do not think that
meeting the guidelines is proof of accessibility. The phrase I use is that
meeting the guidelines would make a "rebuttable presumption" - which is a
term that a lawyer told me. It means if you do what the guidelines say, then
you can say "I think I have done it right", and people should have to show
you what you did wrong. But if you don't do something in the guidelines, then
that is something wrong.

In the original example, I would suggest that it does not follow two
checkpoints - the one about writing clearly and the one about illustrating.
Both of these are P3 in the current guidelines, and it has been suggested by
Anne, Dave and others that these are in fact more important than P3 in the
context of learning disabilities. I look forward to learning more.

Charles McCN

On Fri, 11 Jun 1999, Ann Navarro wrote:

  At 12:25 AM 6/11/99 -0400, Charles McCathieNevile wrote:
  >( I have assumed from the context that the general notation had already been
  >explained, and that I have understood it more or less correctly.
  >I wrote that straight off in two minutes as an immediate reply. It is clearly
  >possible to increaase the accessibility of such a concept dramatically.
  The concept is accessible already, according to WAI guidelines. I still
  don't accept that accessibility automatically equates to
  "understandability".  (Must I understand the symbolism in a Picasso to have
  it be accessible to me?)
  The question still remains: 
  While the language was simplified, does it still impart the required
  technical information for those who need to use it in that manner. In my
  opinion, it does not -- because important terms and definitions have been
  removed in favor of "understandability". 
  The new sample does not define an "occurance indicator", a term that must
  be used for clear an concise communication about DTDs. Nor does it
  appropriately label items such as the generic identifier name. So even
  though someone might understand that when we make things, it must have
  other things, and this thing we're calling a sundae may not have nuts, the
  sample has not done what it was supposed to do:  Define and demonstrate the
  use of occurance indicators that are placed on generic identifier names --
  a critical skill used in writing DTDs. 
  The original assertion in this argument was that the W3C site must be
  written in a manner similar to your sample in order to have any credibility
  in discussing accessibility. 
  My argument remains that doing so is inapprorpiate for that type of site --
  technical specifications are specific by their very nature. Third-party
  prose may certainly choose to improve understandability for the lay person,
  but requiring technical specs to be written at a third grade level woul
  render them quite useless as a defining spec. 
  Put another way -- having the Pratt-Whitney jet engine repair manuals
  written at a third grade level might be "good" so that they can be
  understandable to anyone who might want to pick it up -- but if that
  results in enough loss of specificity that an error is made by a mechanic
  who met his job requirement of understanding college-level material but
  must use a third-grade level repair manual, simply because the language
  explaining what a foo is and how it was supposed to be inserted into the
  widget was too general -- and that error results in the loss of a plane in
  a crash.......then we've "understood" ourselves into disaster. 
  Author of Effective Web Design: Master the Essentials
  Buy it Online - http://www.webgeek.com/about.html
  Coming this summer! --- Mastering XML
  Founder, WebGeek Communications            http://www.webgeek.com
  Vice President-Finance, HTML Writers Guild http://www.hwg.org
  Director, HWG Online Education             http://www.hwg.org/classes

--Charles McCathieNevile            mailto:charles@w3.org
phone: +1 617 258 0992   http://www.w3.org/People/Charles
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative    http://www.w3.org/WAI
MIT/LCS  -  545 Technology sq., Cambridge MA, 02139,  USA
Received on Friday, 11 June 1999 11:23:51 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 13 October 2015 16:21:04 UTC