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RE: WaitingForBob -- Selfish Reason for Accessibility

From: Christopher R. Maden <crism@yomu.com>
Date: Fri, 09 Jun 2000 02:07:29 -0700
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-id: <>
At 07:20 8-06-2000 -0400, Michael Burks wrote:
>I have been following this discussion with some amusement and some
>consternation.  I am wondering if the person who says the force of law will
>produce gruding compliance, has ever had find a restroom that could
>accomdate their wheelchair?

No, I haven't.  I assume your point is that it's now fairly easy, at least 
in public buildings, thanks to the ADA.  If not, then I'm not sure I 

But I feel that there is a fundamental difference between the physical 
world and the Internet which radically changes the legal game in ways that 
make the bathroom metaphor break down.

For starters, there's the matter of jurisdiction.  A building in San 
Francisco is unquestionably in the jurisdiction of the City and County of 
San Francisco, the State of California, and the USA.  If the building's 
management finds the ADA onerous, they may complain, they may drag their 
heels, but they'll have to comply eventually because they can't just move 
the building management concern out of the affected jurisdiction.  But what 
jurisdiction is, say, canada.com in?  The domain is adminstered by Network 
Solutions, Inc., a US entity, but the contact address for the domain is in 
Ontario, with network service through AT&T of Canada.  If their Web site 
isn't compliant when a US user tries to use it, who enforces the 
guidelines?  For that matter, whose guidelines are used?  Now consider the 
case of a large company, say Microsoft, who has the facilities to simply 
move their Web services offshore (say, to HavenCo).  Whose jurisdiction are 
they in then?

Then there's the matter of violation detection.  In meatspace, there are 
building codes and regular inspections; the buildings in a city can be 
enumerated and visited sequentially.  Even assuming that the WACG are 
adopted globally, it's trivial to create a page that passes any 
computer-driven test of the page without actually being accessible.  No 
government has the resources to monitor the entire Internet manually.  So 
it'll be left to individuals with standing to pursue enforcement, whether 
by litigation or by pushing for prosecution.  In these cases, I can't see 
how the resources exist to pursue multiple instances of what would likely 
be lengthy trials if the defendants were stubborn in the slightest.  Add to 
that the fact that many Web sites undergo complete redesigns, starting from 
scratch, and enforcement becomes next to impossible.  Only an organization 
with a real commitment to accessible content can sustain accessibility 
through these redesigns.

Which brings me to my final point: human nature.  People really do not like 
being told what to do.  With a gun pointed at their head (which is what any 
law not completely irrelevant comes down to), they will do as they are 
told.  But if detection, jurisdiction, and enforcement are that difficult, 
who holds the gun and where does it point?  Making threats which will, in 
most cases, amount to a bluff, will only irritate content 
creators.  Education will produce content creators that understand the 
tangible benefits of accessibility; as JM Straczynski wrote, "The universe 
is composed of matter, energy, and enlightened self-interest."  I 
appreciate the work that's going into accessibility education, by the W3C 
and others.  I think that the work on legislation is counterproductive, 
though, and that adding those energies to the education effort instead 
would have a greatly increased benefit.

One thing that's become clearer and clearer to me is that the curb cut 
metaphor cuts quite deep; navigational tools for people with limited vision 
or mobility limitations make for more effective computer use by everyone, 
and information design theory for people with cognitive challenges creates 
information more effectively consumed by everyone.  This is the message 
that really needs to get out.

Christopher R. Maden, Solutions Architect
Yomu: <URL:http://www.yomu.com/>
One Embarcadero Center, Ste. 2405
San Francisco, CA 94111
Received on Friday, 9 June 2000 05:13:26 UTC

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