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

Understanding vs. Accessibility

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Fri, 11 Jun 1999 11:31:34 -0700
Message-Id: <4.1.19990611112003.028b1ac0@mail.idyllmtn.com>
To: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
At 06:10 AM 6/11/1999 , Anne Pemberton wrote:
>I see this as an
>"understanding" issue, which you say isn't to be accommodated. 

You seem to be putting words in my mouth.  I have never said that
"understanding" is _not_ to be accommodated.  I have disagreed
entirely with your complete equation of "understanding" with

That's not to say that making pages "understandable" isn't a
good thing.  In fact, it's great, if appropriate for the site.
Making a page more "understandable" may be necessary to make 
the site usable by the intended target audience.  On the other
hand, as in the case of the W3C site, it may not be an important
issue _based on the content_.

However, "accessibility" doesn't function this way.  I _cannot_
decide "oh, people without a certain level of visual ability
won't be able to access this page;" that is simply an option.
Sites _must_ be accessible.  They _should_ be "understandable"
to the core audience, and _may_ be "understandable" to an
extended audience, but this is not a strict case of "accessibility."

>Perhaps these issues are at the core of our misunderstanding between
>accommodation to which groups of disabled people.

Perhaps you're right; you tend to think in terms of "accommodating
specific groups of disabled people", and I tend to think in terms
of "creating web sites that can be used by everyone."  (Note the
word "can" in there -- I don't _guarantee_ that everyone _will_
be able to _understand_ my website, just that they will be given
the _opportunity_ to do so.  If a blind woman can't access the
information, then she can't even begin to understand it, regardless
of what level it's written to.)

>If the guidelines are to
>be labeled as "for disabled people" and to be offered to be included as
>required accommodations under the ADA,

This is immaterial; the ADA is one law in one country applying to
one set of people, and the WCAG were _not_ written as legal
documents but rather as documents _for web designers_ on how to
_make better web pages_.

>then there really shouldn't be a
>choice made to which disabled people (who are already using the web) should
>be accommodated. 

Everyone should have _access_.  That's why it's called _accessibility_.
If this were the Web Understandability Initiative, with the goal of
having the entire World Wide Web written at the level a third
grader could understand, then things would be different, I'd

>If it's an accessibility issue to choose to turn off the graphics, then
>turning on the graphics is also an accessibility issue. But you can't turn
>on what isn't there, and the guidelines as David listed them, would insure
>that the graphics are indeed there for those who need and want them.
>Without them, the information is _denied them because of their disability_. 

The information is _available to them_.

Look, I teach web accessibility classes online.  I talk to hundreds
of web authors and instruct them creating web sites.  What would
you have me tell them?  "Dumb down your writing because there are
people who can't understand it; all content must be written so
that cognitively disabled people can understand it?  Include plenty
of graphics in all content, because there are people who can't
read who want access to your site?"

Should all web authors now be _required_ to become experts in 
communicating with cognitively disabled?  I think that is far
too much to ask, and you are still confusing "accessibility" with

Kynn Bartlett                                    mailto:kynn@hwg.org
President, HTML Writers Guild                    http://www.hwg.org/
AWARE Center Director                          http://aware.hwg.org/
Received on Friday, 11 June 1999 14:41:55 UTC

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