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Re: QED & Marshall McLuhan

From: Ann Navarro <ann@webgeek.com>
Date: Sun, 13 Jun 1999 15:26:27 -0400
Message-Id: <199906131930.PAA29069@www10.w3.org>
To: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Cc: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
At 02:58 PM 6/13/99 -0400, Charles McCathieNevile wrote:
>I think you have summarised this thread very neatly. It seems to me that Web
>Content Accesibility Guidelines version 1.0 is not being read in a way that
>makes the requirement for comprehensibility clear.

I don't think it's necessarily that simple of an issue. 

The guidelines that prescribe ALT text for images provide a mechanism for
content to be delivered -- the process of understanding that content takes
place after access to it. 

> For people whose disability affects their ability to read
>vast slabs of text, there are approaches which can be used to solve their
>problems of access too.)

Except that I'm (and a few others) are arguing that this isn't an access
problem -- they most definitely have access to it. 

What's at issue is when is it appropriate to provide "simplified" versions
of content, or significant page weight in images and multimedia content to
meet the needs of individuals who don't really have the cognitive ability
to manage the material -- simplified presentation or not. 

If we issue guidelines that say any Web site that deals with the Green Bay
Packers football team must have an image of a football, the football field,
and a CheeseHead in order to be "understood" by all -- we're at the same
time violating other guidelines and good Web authoring practices that
advocate limiting gratuitous use of heavy bandwidth items (and yes, in this
case, I'd argue those additions would be superflous). 

One size fits all doesn't work in clothing, nor does it work in education
-- we've found that out long ago that gifted students often begin to "fail"
in "one level" classrooms because they aren't challenged. So many school
systems implemented gifted or honors programs in most high schools.
Students with learning disabilities are given extra coaching, or an
assistant to take notes for them so they can concentrate on listening to
the lecture, etc. 

Following one of the arguments presented here, the curriculum in that
gifted program must be written in a manner that a student with sub-par
comprehension skills can also understand it -- *even* at the expense of
required specificity in an advanced topic. What will that really have
accomplished? And who will it have served? 

The reason that the WAI guidelines have been successful so far is that they
DON'T require catering to the lowest common denominator. Requiring
simplified text in inappropriate situations is a quick way to kill that

As I said near the beginning of the thread, it is not the job of the PhD
candidate writing a thesis on mathematical chaos theory to give me remedial
instruction in it just because she may be publishing it on the Web. This
doesn't mean that general audience sites should purposefully embrace
obfuscation, it simply means: 

There will be things in this world not everyone will understand. Attempting
to mandate otherwise is unattainable. 


Ann Navarro
Author: Effective Web Design: Master the Essentials
Buy it Online!    http://www.webgeek.com/about.html
Owner, WebGeek Communications   http://www.webgeek.com
Vice President, HTML Writers Guild   http://www.hwg.org
Received on Sunday, 13 June 1999 15:30:12 UTC

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