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Re: Web accessibility

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 11:45:33 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: Nigel Bevan <nbevan@usability.serco.com>
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
The questions you ask aren't the same things, and in general there's
no easy way to answer these questions due to the nature of the web.

"Accessible to people with special needs" doesn't equate to "sites
that follow the guidelines"; a site can follow the guidelines and
be inaccessible, and a site can break the guidelines and still be
useful to some folks.

Accessibility itself is not a boolean value, a yes-no switch for
"accessible" or "not accessible".  A site that may be highly accessible
to a blind person might not work at all for a deaf person; different
needs can affect personal access to a site.  Thus if you were to try
to quantify the sites on the net as "accessible" or "not", would you
disqualify a site if one type of people/browser/situation couldn't
get at it, but the majority could?

You never really reach a point where you can declare, definitively,
"this site IS accessible", except for perhaps the most basic of
pages.  It's always a concern of "have I done the MOST I could do
to provide accessibility", not "did I do it?"  Especially as the
demographics of users continues to change and we encounter more and
special needs and barriers to accessibility, we will always need to
reconsider what is useful and what is not for making our sites
usable by everyone.

If you wanted to determine an arbitrary number, you can either use
this one, which I'm about to generate:  95% of websites have 
accessibility problems, and more than 50% have serious problems which
prevent them from being used by people with disabilities.  Of course,
I just made those numbers up. :)  Otherwise, you could somehow take
a random sample of websites and conduct accessibility studies on them,
and then claim they're representative of the greater whole of the
web, and slap the results over everything, through the magic of

More to the point, though -- why do you want a number to place on
it?  I can state with some certainty that the majority of the sites
out there do not consider accessibility as an integral part of the
design process, and thus most sites that are produced are not nearly
as useful as they could be.  This is a serious problem.  Would giving
the problem a number make it more important?  It's possible; I don't
know, because I don't think in those terms myself.

At 06:24 p.m. 03/29/99 +0100, Nigel Bevan wrote:
>Does anyone have any estimates of the percentage of web sites that are
>accessible to people with special needs?   There are plenty of guidelines
>for accessibility, but does anyone know what percentage of sites follow
>the guidelines?
>Please reply to me personally, as I do not subscribe to this mailing list.
>Many thanks .. Nigel Bevan
Kynn Bartlett <kynn@hwg.org>
President, Governing Board Member
HTML Writers Guild <URL:http://www.hwg.org>
Received on Monday, 29 March 1999 19:03:28 UTC

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