W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > October to December 1999

Re: How Much Of A Problem Are Tables Used for Design?

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Fri, 19 Nov 1999 11:10:44 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: David Poehlman <poehlman@clark.net>
Cc: Claude Sweet <sweetent@home.com>, WAI Interest Group Emailing List <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
At 10:49 AM 11/19/1999 , David Poehlman wrote:
>to make this brief as we've been asked to stay on topic.  my reference
>was of the fairness of people needing to do something <unfair> to
>achieve accessability.  I'm not saying that there should be tit for
>tat.  I'm saying that accessability is the goal and fairness or
>unfairness plays no part as I see it.

Sure it does.  "Undue burden", for example, is a principle at the 
core of most (all?) accessibility requirements.  Does doing this
require me to spend a lot of resources (time, money, personpower)
to achieve something that's only of a certain amount of value?

Theoretical case:

As a businessman, sure, I'd like to have my website reach everyone.
But if it costs me $10,000 to create the site, but would cost me
an extra $50,000 to make sure it's available to deaf users (because
I have multiple multimedia files that need synchronized captioning),
I'm not going to pay 500% more just so that a very small audience
(perhaps 1%) can access it.

Is it fair they can't see it?  No, not really.  But is it fair that
I have to pay five times as much because they're disabled?  No,
that's not fair either.  Our goal is to balance out the fairness
or lack thereof, and to make those kinds of determinations, we
need to see what the costs are and what the benefits are.  Asking
someone to expend a great "cost" for a small "benefit" can be very

Now, you and others have noticed that I go around saying "accessibility
is cheap and easy!"  And I believe that for the vast majority of the
cases out there, this is true.  Reliable use of ALT text would solve
50% of the existing accessibility hurdles, for example, and ALT text
is so mindnumbingly easy that even non-technical people I talk with
can instantly grasp the cost-benefit scenario.  It's a winner.

Other things are not so easy, or not so cheap.  It's my belief that
when something is -not- easy and cheap -- which is a way of saying
"the benefits do not justify the cost" -- that those should not be
required.  Recommended, perhaps, yes -- but not _required_.  If 
making my site (or business, or whatever) accessible by your standards
will cost me enough that I'd potentially go out of business, then you
are -not- going to see it happen, whether or not you have a "no
compromise, no excuses, accessibility NOW!" philosophy.

We need to work within the existing structures, and emphasize the
benefits of accessible web design -- while still realizing that many
things that are good and wonderful and enabling may be beyond our
grasp.  We need to choose carefully what battles we fight, because
this war isn't going to be fought in a day.  We have to realize that
sheer economics mean we can't get everything we want, even from those
people who support us the most.

Is that "fair"?  No.  But "fairness" is the poorest of accessibility
arguments anyway.  If it really worked, then we probably wouldn't 
need accessibility laws and guidelines now.

[Hopefully this has been on-topic enough; if not, my apologies.]

Kynn Bartlett                                    mailto:kynn@hwg.org
President, HTML Writers Guild                    http://www.hwg.org/
AWARE Center Director                          http://aware.hwg.org/
Received on Friday, 19 November 1999 14:31:19 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 13 October 2015 16:21:06 UTC