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Re: Kynn's Definition of Accessibility, and Uncaptioned Webcasts

From: Steven McCaffrey <smccaffr@MAIL.NYSED.GOV>
Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1999 14:43:19 -0500
Message-Id: <s8301c11.081@mail.nysed.gov>
To: <jbrewer@w3.org>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Cc: <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
I agree completely.
I have found myself disagreeing more frequently lately on policy or policy-like issues and at the same time agrreeing and admiring the technical advice offerred on how to do this or that.
I am trying to take a step back and consider those who seem to be sayingg, basically, that 
a. Perfection is not possible. and 
b. in the "real world" 
( the negation of which is an often mystical place since I consider myself to always be in the real-world) there are such an such considerations.
Statement a. above is obvious and I don't see what it implies.
Statement b. is, in the abstract, worthwhile, but needs fleshing out.
I think all would agree that the ideal is maximum accessibility.  The disagreement, if any, is over how?
As you point out, there are some technical issues not yet handled well with current tools.
The web guidelines address this issue in many places, some more indirectly than others.
In some places there is the phrase about "interrim" solutions.  In many places there is the phrase "graceful transformation" or "graceful degradation".  
My interpretation of phrases like these is basically common sense.
Some "user agents" don't support this or that so either avoid a certain feature or provide an alternative.
If you do use a certain new technology/feature, remember those who might not have access by that particular mode.
If it is known in advance that some feature will be used, that will be inaccessible to some groups, plan ahead to provide an alternative.
I think we can all agree on these.  If any of us still disagree, we need to communicate better exactly at what point do we disagree.
If some of us are facing "real world" impediments, whatever the cause, we need to reach out and ask each other for help.
None of us should be afraid to say "I know this is right, I want to do this, but here are the obstacles I face.  Can you, as the consumer, help me make a case to overcome these obstacles?"
Those who insist on their rights to maximum (not minimum)
and those information providers who hav limited time / resources
must try not to oppose each other but work together.  
Providers: Ask the consumers for help in getting more resources.
Consumers: Make your rights known, be as clear and precise as you can.

today's ideals *are* tomorrow's real-world.  We all can do it.  I am an eternal idealistic optimist.


Steve McCaffrey

>>> Judy Brewer <jbrewer@w3.org> 11/10/99 09:56AM >>>
While several people have said that they agreed with this "definition of
accessibility" (see Kynn's original posting below), I think that there is a
danger in this definition.

If I were to restate it in words I'd feel more comfortable with, I'd say
that the goal of Web accessibility is to maximize access to the Web for
people with disabilities. 

So, why take out "percentages"? The Web Content Guidelines Working Group
very deliberately did _not_ make demographic slices of different disability
groups a factor in assigning priorities to checkpoints within the
guidelines. The checkpoints are instead prioritized according to the extent
to which they address barriers that completely, partially, or only mildly
impede access for various disability groups, not according to what percent
of the population those barriers impact.

The "percentages" argument effectively matches the "marketability"
rationale for Web accessibility. If one looks the universal design
rationale (carry-over benefits from Web accessibility to greater usability
for other Web users) or the "requirements" rationale (for some kinds of Web
sites, in some countries, there is a requirement to provide a certain level
of accessibility) then the "percentages" approach has shortcomings, as it
may mean certain carry-over benefits being lost (such as the efficiency of
indexing and searching on captioned audio), or some groups of disabled
users not having their needs met (people with less common disabilities).
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are a prioritized list of ways to
ensure accessibility across disabilities, and across these three
complementary rationales.

At the same time, it's not yet easy to have full access in every situation.
Captioning of audio and description of video are very possible for
pre-recorded multi-media, using SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration
Language) or other formats. So, once a videoconference is completed, it can
be reproduced with captions and descriptions. On the other hand, captioning
of audio for a live teleconference is difficult with today's tools (a good
market opportunity for someone!) though possible; and description of live
video yet more difficult, though again possible with some creativity.

So, my conclusion would still be the same in this situation: provide the
maximum access that one can. I just wouldn't suggest calculating it on the
basis of percentages, since there are some groups who would never get
access with that approach, yet who need it as much as the rest of us.

- Judy

At 06:21 PM 11/8/99 -0800, Kynn Bartlett wrote:
>At about 1 hour 50 minutes into the webcast of the InterLab accessibility
>panel, a member of the audience asked an interesting question, "I can
>interpret some of what you have said to mean that we should stop this
>video transmission right now -- we have no signer, we have no text.
>How do you make those judgments?"
>It brought up an intriguing quandry -- should we refuse to do something,
>if it cannot be done accessibly?  (In this case, there were no funds
>available to hire real-time transcription or even after-the-fact
>transcriptions.)  Should SLAC have decided not to webcast in that
>Some people would argue "if you can't do it accessibly, you shouldn't
>do it."
>I'm not sure I agree with that.  Mainly because of how I define
>accessibility.  The way I see it is that any given web service is
>going to have a potential audience of a given size -- and the
>percentage of potential users who can use that service will range
>from 0% to 100%.  The GOAL of accessible web design is to MAXIMIZE
>THE SERVICE.  (Caps to make it stand out, not because I'm shouting.)
>Applying this to the case in question, let's say that only 50% of
>the potential audience could use the Real Video file.  The other
>half don't have a compatible viewer, or they can't hear, or they
>can't see, or they don't have a computer (cell phone, PDA, etc),
>or any other reason.
>If we turn off the web cast, the number of people who can access
>that service goes from 50% to 0%.  This is not a step towards
>accessibility, my friends -- in fact, it's the opposite.  TURNING OFF
>We need to be careful, when we make mandates about accessibility,
>that we are not saying "do it this way OR ELSE" -- because then we
>lead to an overall net effect in which accessibility is decreased.
>Our goal should always, *always* be to promote changes which
>increase accessibility, which means INCREASING the number of potential
>audience members who can use a service, and never to DECREASE that
>Agree or disagree?
>Kynn Bartlett  <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                   http://www.kynn.com/ 
>Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain Internet      http://www.idyllmtn.com/ 
>Next Speaking Stop: New Orleans, 9 Dec 99    http://www.builder.com/live/ 
>CC/PP Builds the Future of the Web --> learn more at http://www.ccpp.org/ 
Judy Brewer    jbrewer@w3.org    +1.617.258.9741    http://www.w3.org/WAI 
Director,Web Accessibility Initiative(WAI), World Wide Web Consortium(W3C)

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Received on Monday, 15 November 1999 14:45:33 UTC

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