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Re: reading vs. writing [2]

From: William Loughborough <love26@gorge.net>
Date: Sat, 02 Sep 2000 13:53:14 -0700
Message-ID: <39B168BA.C60910B1@gorge.net>
To: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
CC: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org, jonathan chetwynd <jc@signbrowser.org.uk>
AG:: "Freeing web accessibility from an obsessive focus on text is like
freeing the student of Physics from the assumption that physical
geometry is Euclidean."

WL: At the risk of the misplaced ridicule of the position taken by a
certain "leader" during his reasonably recent PR debacle: "it depends on
what your definition of "is" is." The "obssessive focus on text"'s
"isness" depends on whether it's either "obsessive" or a "focus" and
whether there even *is* an "assumption" about "geometry" (whatever that
was before Fuller) *being* Euclidean rather than that the "Euclideanism"
of it is more than a convenient map of greater or lesser utility than
any other. As Korzybski was fond of saying "whatever you *say* it is, it

When the *teaching* of one of the main techniques that gets "dictionary
defined" as "reading" moved from McGuffey to Disney, the emphasis on
text-heavy was felt to have been mollified to the "why can't Johnny
read?" level of discussion. Even a cursory glance at Tim Berners-Lee's
oeuvre makes it clear that we are immersed in a culture that has
transcended considerations of whether laps were a factor in the
"learning" or just an inevitable accompaniment of that experience?

The virtual reality of either being read to or reading "The Three Little
Pigs" that occurs within the recipient of that reading-thing can only be
crudely paralleled by the movie by Disney that falls far short of the
experience as imagined rather than "seen". "Oh, I see said the blind
man" is a cliche more profound than we've credited it with.

The "emperor's clothes" enveloping of the text of semantics "burdened"
by translation into the graphics we call printed/spoken/felt words
(Helen Keller's "wa-wa") is a (perhaps unfortunate?) concommitant of
"reading". Such multi-media "enhancements" might well be not only not a
necessity in the process but even a possible detriment substituting an
"authorized version" and stultifying creativity by boxing it into a
vision of people "confined to wheel chairs" while the rest of us strive
vainly to keep up with their users in pedestrian traffic.

What is my point (if anyone cares?): language (whatever that "means")
can be reasonably (whatever that "means") represented in a widely-agreed
upon graphic representation called "text" even when that is woefully
inadequate from a certain point of view - it's *clearly* the best we've
got - even for people speaking as diverse a set of "languages" as ASL
and hugging. 

That "universal design" has that particular basis (text) may be
frustrating and even marginally arguable doesn't matter because our
deliberations, instructions, modifications, correlations, and any other
"-ions" are most widely "understood" in *THIS* medium. All so-far
efforts to "enhance" this with graphs are almost always retinally-based
poor substitutes for the semantics - except for the "graphs" called

We find this in our difficulty in understanding that there is no
dichotomy between "data tables" and "layout tables" because "tables" are
*ONLY* a visual "emperor's clothes" version of data (semantics) which is
already a high-level abstraction of what the data represent (or datum
represents <g>).

We have become so retinally conceited that it is hard for us blindless
ones to come to grips with the absurdity of the idea that there is some
parallel notion that there is at this time even a possibility that there
could be an attribute that assigns "illustrations" to text. Text is the
most widely "understood" representation of "reality", "ideas",
"semantics" that we have and its inadequacies might be reduced by
appropriate congruent other devices - but it's still always come down to
"ALT=" in the form that attribute now takes. Specialists can communicate
musical instructions, dance patterns, and many other arcane informations
in "non-verbal" terms, but they so far have only been able to
communicate these things to "outsiders" with the agreed-upon "words" of
language and its barely-possible universality. Just as clocks,
calendars, and money form a huge basis for getting us all "on the same
page" so blue jeans, the Beatles, and fax machines tore apart the Soviet
Union and the Berlin Wall. 

We are all in this together.
We are all members of one another.
Accessibility is a fundamental human right - not an exclusionary

Of course I could be (and certainly am) "wrong".

Received on Saturday, 2 September 2000 16:51:38 UTC

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