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Re: wall st. journal "brace of new federal requirements could help out disabled web users

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Thu, 08 Jul 1999 20:10:57 -0700
Message-Id: <4.1.19990708200242.016e0030@mail.idyllmtn.com>
To: Jason White <jasonw@ariel.ucs.unimelb.edu.au>
Cc: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
At 07:50 PM 7/8/1999 , Jason White wrote:
>It is interesting to notice the extent to which these articles tend to
>focus on vision impairment, as distinct from other types of disabilities.

The most common and _most understood_ access problems on the web
generally relate to visual impairments.  There are millions of
web sites dependent upon someone being able to SEE, and very
few dependent upon someone being able to HEAR (as an example of
another broad disability class).  Likewise, many web sites actually
can be used, thanks to the browser software, by folks who can't
use a mouse, by tabbing around, although admittedly there is a
greater problem for keyboard access users than non-auditory users.

Plus journalists are always looking for the MOST INTERESTING angle
of a story.  The general perception of the web is that computers are
the average non-technical person will identify a monitor as "the
computer", not the CPU.  (My own mother did this earlier in the
week; I told her I have 9 computers in my office and she pointed
at all of the monitors in the room and said "no, I only see five!")

So from that angle, it is MORE INTERESTING to say "there are blind
people using the web!" because it is thought of as a primarily
visual experience.  It's not interesting to say "there are deaf
people using the web!" or "there are people in wheelchairs using
the web!" or "there are people with learning disabilities using
the web!" because to the average person on the street, that is
about as interesting as saying "there are people in wheelchairs
reading newspapers!"  Well, duh, what's odd about that?

Blind users breaks the concept of the web as a visual medium, and is
thus more interesting to read about.  If I told you that "people in
wheelchairs listen to the radio!" you'd look at me funny, and ask,
"why is that news?"  But if I told you "deaf people listen to the
radio!" you'd be curious and intrigued, and want to know more.

In the same way, the coverage of blind web users plays off the
(misconception) held by nearly everyone that the web is a visual

Kynn Bartlett                                    mailto:kynn@hwg.org
President, HTML Writers Guild                    http://www.hwg.org/
AWARE Center Director                          http://aware.hwg.org/
Received on Thursday, 8 July 1999 23:15:11 UTC

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