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Re: Define Accessibility!

From: Alan Cantor <acantor@oise.utoronto.ca>
Date: Fri, 11 Jun 1999 16:02:41 -0400 (EDT)
To: IG - WAI Interest Group List <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.SO4.4.02.9906111540490.26512-100000@tortoise>
Kynn writes:

> My definition:  A web site is accessible if the information contained
> in the content is not denied to any user.  This is separate from
> the actual _understanding_, meaning that a web site could be
> perfectly _accessible_ to me but not _understandable_ by me, and that's
> just fine.

I think this is a fascinating exercise... nailing down a definition -- or
a set of definitions -- for accessibility. Clearly the answer is not going
to be straightforward.

Here is a definition for universal web page design that I came up with a
couple of years ago:

"Universal Web-page design means considering the needs of all people, and
incorporating features useful to people with and without disabilties. A
site, page, or feature is accessible if it can be used by everyone,
including people with sensory, mobility and learning disabilities; people
with injuries; children; and seniors."

I am bothered by one aspect of my definition -- and Kynn's -- and I have
not yet resolved it. Accessibility is never absolute. Nothing is 100%
accessible. Is it meaningful to frame accessibility in terms of "all
people" and "everybody?" There will always be individuals, due to
disability or poor design, who will not be able to "get the message." The
goal of web designers is to create environments that maximize the chances
that everyone will have access to information, with an understanding that
we will not be 100% successful. But it's better to aim high and miss some
people than to be haphazard and miss a lot of people.

It may also be helpful to frame a definition of accessibility in terms of
usability. However, both usability and accessibility need be understood in
relation to real, live people. (Warmware, to the geeks!) The question
becomes: accessible to/usable by which people? My reflexive answer is: As
many people as possible, and certainly not to the exclusion of those who
have sensory, mobility, learning (and cognitive?) disabilities.


Alan Cantor
Cantor + Associates
Workplace Accommodation Consultants
New e-mail address: acantor@interlog.com
Received on Friday, 11 June 1999 16:02:44 UTC

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