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Re: GUIs for non readers

From: William Loughborough <love26@gorge.net>
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 1999 06:58:10 -0700
Message-ID: <376A5072.2EFD59F2@gorge.net>
To: Jonathan Chetwynd <jay@peepo.com>, kasoko@aol.com, "w3c-wai-ig@w3.org" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, chitchcock@cast.org
The subject line is a little misleading because a trouble with the Web
is the UI, not the GUI or CLUI (command line user interface).  It is
also not *just* a problem for non readers, PWDs (especially including
those with learning/cognitive problems).  Compared to Mozart we're all
"disabled" musically and the old "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed
man is king" is pertinent, though wrong.  As Alan Cantor (and others)
point out "disability" is a problem with the environment - in this case
the interface we face dealing with the Web, which is largely legacy from
the same area of information access in general.  

Just as the self-starter made the automobile usable by people who
couldn't operate a hand crank, the GUI made access easier for people
whose cognitive overload made remembering all those commands impossible.
It also made it less efficient for people who never forgot that
"left-shift+ctrl-7" meant "what time is it?"

As we find that the massive market for access to information is to be
fulfilled not with desktop (or even laptop) computers but webphones,
gameboys, wrist watches, and wearable computers with displays through
projections on eyeglass lenses and through earphones, etc., we must
confront the oft neglected fact that people who can hear sometimes are
in a situation that prohibits use of audio and drivers of cars better
not be looking too intensely at maps (paper or LCDs!).

What the WAI has done is to point out that the guidelines which are
being promulgated in order to open the Web to PWDs are actually about
making the Web usable - at all - by everyone.  At this time the
presentations on the Web are far too often in the hands of designers who
are clueless as to the fact that there is information to be presented
and they've become enamored of their own (our own) aesthetics of sight
and sound.

Usability often takes a back seat to some "web wizard" notion of what's
"cool" or "looks good" and because we know so many people who want "just
the facts, ma'am" or don't know what it "looks like" (because they're
blind) we have made sets of guidelines that try to correct the
inaccessibilities being visited on us by "fools in pony tails".

When the 99% of the people who know there's an internet but have never
experienced it are forced to use it, it will have to be far more usable
than is now the case. People with differing levels of cognitive capacity
will be accommodated or the market will stamp out whatever keeps them
from being part of the "market share". A big factor in ending genocide
will be that marketeers won't stand for customers to be removed from the
queue waiting at the cash register.

JC:: "Special needs groups are not best placed to provide examples.
Publishers are." "Words as I have suggested on numerous occassions are
not the solution, even if in guidelines."

WL: I disagree with both these statements strongly. First, everybody has
special needs - those of us not using wheel chairs must have the special
accommodation of seating at public gatherings; we are "best placed" to
provide examples. "Words" are in fact the *ONLY* solution.  I think
Jonathan means "text" but in the sense that any communication 'twixt
minds is "words" we must use them to make clear what needs doing and
that's why formal language (so far always rendered in some sensorily
transmitted form) is required for guidelines.

CH:: "the web needs to be more than informational" "The work reaches
beyond accessibility"

WL: not just to be picky but whether interactive, educational,
informative, amusing, whatever it is not "more than informational". One
of the arguments in these related threads is whether "beyond
accessibility" is meaningful.  For the purposes of guidelines, I think
not. If you can't use the tools you don't truly have "access" to them.
Just as society has valid reasons to deny access to certain tools
(nuclear weapons spring to mind), so there will be information that
cannot be used by everyone - I find the violin personally useless (as a
violin, i.e.)

So to sloganize: 

We are all in this together.
We are all members of one another.
We are all (at least partially) disabled.
Accessibility is right - not privilege.


Received on Friday, 18 June 1999 09:57:48 UTC

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