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Re: The second thing I don't like about the WAI-IG list (Forward From empower@smart.net)

From: Charles F. Munat <coder@acnet.net>
Date: Mon, 4 Jan 1999 17:00:40 -0600
Message-ID: <003701be3836$10c3a800$331172a7@acnet.net>
To: <po@trace.wisc.edu>, <uaccess-l@trace.wisc.edu>, "'IG - WAI Interest Group List'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, "Mike Paciello" <paciello@ma.ultranet.com>
On Sunday, January 03, 1999 10:58 PM Mike wrote:

"technology created or enhanced to
benefit people with disabilities has often led to emerging
and/or advanced
technology that then goes on to benefit mankind in general.
I am convinced
that pushing technology to new heights hinges on this
development cycle."


This is a very good point. But I wonder what is meant by
"benefit mankind in general." Access to information that has
a direct bearing on one's life is clearly a benefit to
mankind. This is what access to the web by people with
disabilities is all about, IMO. But it is also a benefit to
those without disabilities, even if they do not use that
technology directly, because when some of us suffer, we are
all impoverished, whether we realize it or not. This is an
argument I have yet to see made on behalf of ensuring
accessibility to people with disabilities.

Let me make this point again: Although I am not disabled,
when another citizen who *does* have a disability is
provided with the means to access otherwise inaccessible
data, *I*, too, am benefited. This is because a society in
which a portion of the population is oppressed is a broken
society, and no matter how much the rich, free members of
that society think they are "winning", all are in fact
losing, because a broken society benefits no-one.

But getting back to the benefiting of "mankind in general,"
what exactly does this mean? Is television a benefit to
mankind? Is the latest, greatest techno toy a benefit to
mankind? So, again, do we really want to start justifying
accessibility to people with disabilities (a right) with
arguments about greater benefits (conveniences) to others?
It seems to me that it pollutes the debate. Everyone,
regardless of disability (including those impoverished), has
a right to access to information that affects his or her
life. The simplest term for this right is justice. That
argument is enough. Period. And when we start making other
justifications, we imply that we don't really believe that
equal access is a right. I, for one, am not even happy with
the argument that "it's the law." That is not an argument
for accessibility, in my mind, it is a threat to be used
when the argument fails.

So, once again, I am in favor of bringing back to the fore
the rights of human beings--all human beings--regardless of
disability, social class, financial ability, whatever, to
have equal access to information bearing on their lives.
That is enough argument for accessibility. All else simply
dilutes it.

Charles Munat
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Received on Monday, 4 January 1999 18:09:34 UTC

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