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Re: single browser intranets

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
Date: Tue, 26 Oct 1999 17:27:14 -0400
Message-Id: <4.1.19991026161321.00ae16f0@pop3.concentric.net>
To: Claude Sweet <sweetent@home.com>
Cc: WAI Interest Group Emailing List <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
aloha, claude!

the logical flaw in your rebuttal to al gilman's contribution to this thread is
revealed in the (supposedly) rhetorical question you posed:

  Is it realistic to expect small companies to expend 
  a large percentage of its resources on a solution for 
  which there isn't an existing problem?

who says that an incredible outlay is necessary to achieve an interoperable and
accessible intranet?  simply because only one browser is used to access it and
the company currently has no disabled employees doesn't reduce the overall
importance of designing to maximize interoperability -- the time that is spent
up front will be considered time well spent once (a) the company moves to
another platform, browser, and/or integrated application suite and (b) if one
of the company's current employees becomes disabled....

the type of thinking that leads to blanket assertions such as quote behind our
firewall we -- who currently have no disabled employees -- can do anything we
damn well please unquote is the same sort of short-sighted logic that brought
us the Y2K problem...  and, as the Y2K mania in which our society  is currently
indulging amply illustrates, the yeah, we'll address that when it becomes a
quote real unquote issue mode of thinking leads, ultimately, to a greater
outlay and loss of time, effort, and resources than does a bit of forethought
and planning...

sure, as a former I.T. professional and intranet architect slash administrator,
i can understand the urge for uniformity, but i also know its stifling
limitations...  i also know, from practical experience the limitations of the
cookie cutter approach to accessibility...  the combination of illnesses that
caused my blindness also caused a severe loss of tactile sensitivity that
prevents me from reading braille with any efficacy...  the end result is, that,
were it not for synthesized speech, i would be functionally illiterate... 
thus, as one who is now umbilically connected to a computer device of some sort
in order to accomplish even the most basic of tasks (looking up a phone number,
leaving myself notes, keeping track of which album in which milk crate is
which, etc.) i also know that simply by switching from screen reader X to
screen reader Y while running the same mainstream application can cause a world
of difference, as well as dramatically increasing or decreasing the
functionality and usability of the mainstream application...

achieving accessibility isn't as easy as it has been portrayed on this list by
some during the long, torturous history of this thread -- one can't simply slap
JFW or HPR on a workstation and say to the employee here you go, now stop your
whining since (amongst other reasons which could be cited):

1) the I.S./I.T. department of the company or entity in question has no
experience with adaptive/assistive technology, and hence are unaware of the
very real possibility that upgrading or applying a patch to a single piece of
software -- even one which the disabled employee never actually uses -- can
negatively affect (or even bring to a crashing halt) the performance of the
assistive technology being used by the disabled employee to perform even the
most prosaic of tasks

2) most people who rely on assistive technology are trained on a specific brand
of software, and making a drastic switch to another brand of assistive
technology not only means another steep learning curve, but that many of the
functionalities that the user took for granted when using adaptive technology X
no longer apply when using adaptive technology Y...  this is particularly true
of screen reader users in the windows environment...  most screen readers have
a set of mouse emulation keystrokes and scripted events (minimize all windows,
etc.) that the user learns by rote, never knowing that there are OS equivalents
to many of the emulated and scripted events (such as shift+F10 to simulate a
right-mouse-click, or WindowsKey+M to minimize all applications), with the
consequence that -- when the user is forced to migrate from the A.T. which has
hitherto been their life-line in the GUI environment to a different A.T. for
compatibility's sake -- or, to a piece of specialized software, such as HPR,
just so that they can access information on the company's intranet -- their
productivity will most likely slip dramatically...  this leads not only to
decreased output by the person with a disability, but to the reinforcement of
negative stereotypes, as well -- the quote well, what more does he want unquote
syndrome, which is born of the type of ignorance that has been flagrantly
flaunted on this list, to wit, the quote just slap screen reader X on the
workstation and the accessibility issue has been addressed unquote...

when it comes to accessibility, the cookie cutter approach of using adaptive
technology A in conjunction with application C does not, and cannot be allowed
to, suffice...

i'll close with a brief illustration of my point...  although i personally find
IBM's HomePage Reader (HPR) to be quite an incredible and impressive bit of
engineering, i have had innumerable members of the Visually Impaired Computer
Users' Group of New York City (for whom i serve as webmaster, minister of
propaganda, and president emeritus) tell me, after being exposed to HPR
firsthand, quote i'd love to be able to navigate tables and surf the web in
general like that, but i'll never remember all those keystrokes and commands --
it's bad enough that i have to switch between 2 or 3 screen readers during the
course of a day in order to get my work done; the last thing i need is a whole
new set of commands to memorize unquote

He that lives on Hope, dies farting
     -- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1763
Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
   WebMaster and Minister of Propaganda, VICUG NYC
Received on Tuesday, 26 October 1999 17:21:08 UTC

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