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RE: please help correct a problem?

From: Waddell, Cynthia <cynthia.waddell@ci.sj.ca.us>
Date: Mon, 18 Oct 1999 14:10:25 -0700
Message-ID: <3EC0FC2EAE6AD1118D5100AA00DCD8830345AA3F@sj-exchange.ci.sj.ca.us>
To: "'Scott Luebking'" <phoenixl@netcom.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
I was away speaking at the first national conference for Web Managers in
Denver when your first email arrived but it appears that Al was able to give
you an appropriate response.

I am puzzled by your question as to how much time professors must take to
spend on accessibility issues.  Professors should be working hand in hand
with the Students with Disabilities Office at their higher education
institution.  The Students with Disabilities Office provides the policy
implementation and should be the first place these questions should be
directed since they are in the business of coordinating the arrangements for
all "academic adjustments" under Section 504/ADA. Having been the Director
of this office for a university, I have intimate knowledge of what it takes
to work with both the student and the faculty to arrive at the appropriate
accommodation for accessibility.  Some of the solutions for accessibility
can be quite straightforward, requiring no elaborate accommodation.

If professors are asking you how much time to spend on accessibility, they
are asking the wrong person and should be talking to their own
administration for guidance.  Professors have had to address accessibility
for at least 25 years under the Rehabilitation Act, so this issue is not


Cynthia D. Waddell   
ADA Coordinator
City Manager Department
City of San Jose, CA USA
801 North First Street, Room 460
San Jose, CA  95110-1704
(408)971-0134 TTY
(408)277-3885 FAX

-----Original Message-----
From: Scott Luebking [mailto:phoenixl@netcom.com]
Sent: Sunday, October 10, 1999 11:22 AM
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: RE: please help correct a problem?

Hi, Al

It's a complicated issue.  I've been asked many questions.  (I'll skip
the ones related to academic freedom.)  For example, what is a
reasonable amount of time for a professor and assistants to spend on
accessibility issues?  Is it ethical for a professor not to better serve
the non-disabled students by using the latest technology in order for
disabled students to use technology?  Is it the professor's
responsibility or is it the university's responsibility, e.g. who
provides the resources and training around accessibility?  Because
technology is changing and because academia can be on the cutting edge
of technology, what should be done when there are no community standards
or the standards lag behind the technology?  (The guidelines are already
becoming more out of date with what the general community is / will be using
in web technology.)  Is it the professor's responsibility to make up for
the community's technology gap?

You brought up another interesting point.  How much effort should a
professor spend making course materials accessible for people who aren't
his students?

I think you are right that the professors are more likely to understand
the technology issues while OCR may understand the policy issues.  OCR
doesn't understand the technology and some of its rulings may become quickly
outdated as technology changes.  The academics often understand the new
technology, but don't understand the access issues.  Very few disabled
people learn and understand the new technology much less the access
issues of the new technology.

And to make matters worse, they are not talking with each other.


> Let's start by focusing an aspect of this situation that Cynthia raised
> you have so far studiously ignored: that the professor is the deliverer of
> a public service, and the student is a member of a class of service
> consumers with identified civil rights.  This points to how the rule of
> in our society helps to reduce individual conflict.  
> In resolving a disagreement between an individual professor and an
> individual student, the law says the University has to take into account
> generally accepted standards from the broader community like the WCAG
> are recognized as protecting the interests of all blind students who might
> wish to browse the course notes, not just the individuals who happen to be
> enrolled in this session of this class.  
> This moves the dialog off the level of a personal conflict to a question
> what public institutions (the university) offer the public.  This
> particular dispute has both technical and policy sides to the equation.
> Many professors at ranking universities may understand the technical side
> of the equation better than the OCR.  On the other hand, it is likely that
> few understand the policy side of the equation better than the OCR.
> Academics are not accustomed to being held accountable to public standards
> of effective communication.  They are accustomed to writing their own
> through peer review and the editorial policy of the archival journals.  On
> the other hand, the modern technology that you speak of also has made
> communication a much more open phenomenon, with the network patterns of
> can participate in educational exchanges penetrating the ivy walls of
> academe much more transparently than in the past.  This means that the
> freedom of academics to control their own use of media should be
> just as much as the W3C's competence to set media standards for use in
> academic settings should be questioned (which it should).  It's a new ball
> game.  We all have assumptions to un-learn.  Academe will be more
> in the end for undergoing the pain of this adjustment.  And it might as
> well start at Berkeley where there are such smart people to figure out how
> to do it.
> Al
Received on Monday, 18 October 1999 17:15:13 UTC

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