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Re: [media] Making Sites Accessible Makes Sense For All Customers

From: Martin McCormick <martin@dc.cis.okstate.edu>
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2001 13:58:09 -0600
To: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-Id: <E14SP6v-0004Ja-00@dc.cis.okstate.edu>
	I notice about 3 distinct types of response when I have
pointed out accessibility problems to owners and or operators of
web sites.  All are understandable, but none are satisfactory.

	1.  "I'm sorry, but you'll just need tog et a better
browser."  To which I want to respond, "Yup and, while I'm at it,
I'll snap my fingers and put an end to poverty, famine, and
pestilence the world over 'cause that needs to be done also."

2.  "I'll call Microsoft and see if they have any suggestions."
What a novel idea!  I'm sure they never heard of this before.

3.  "I don't understand your problem, but I'll do what I can."

	That last one is truly sad because we have all been there
before.  Unfortunately, it doesn't fix anything either, but it is
a more caring way to tell the customer that he/she is out of luck
for now.

	I recently received an email from a friend who uses
Windows and one of the other Windows screen readers besides JAWS.
He was wanting assistance in getting access to part of a web site
which is operated by a department of the university I work for.
The site is absolutely useless with lynx and I had wondered how
it did with Windows and a Windows screen reader.

	The friend told me how far he had gotten under Windows
and I tried the same thing with lynx to see how far I would get.

	I got to the exact same link he had reached before the JS
curtain descended and there simply was not another normal link to
follow anywhere.

	Browsers like lynx represent a core functionality that
should be the gold standard for accessibility simply because they
are free and open-source.

	While it is true that both Netscape and Internet Explorer
can be downloaded for free or for very little cost, JAWS is about
as far from free as it gets.  It is down-right expensive and can
easily double the cost of a work station.

	I looked in to what it might take to add javascript
support to lynx and found that it may not even be possible due to
the multi-pass nature of javascript.  I briefly landed on the
Mozilla discussion group in Usenet and posted the  suggestion
that Mozilla, the public-domain version of Netscape might be
outfitted with a text-based mode of operation which would simply
gracefully do what it could with the text part of the javascript
process.  That idea got surprisingly positive responses from
people who are actually involved with the mozilla code, but is a
formidable task any way one looks at it.

	I look at this from the viewpoint of one who is not an
expert in browsers but who does write some C programs and who
likes to solve problems in such a way as to have something which
is cheap and easy to deploy.

	There is simply something rotten in the state of software
right now that one must use a specific browser coupled with a
specific and very expensive commercial screen reader to hope to
get access to more sites.  I fully realize that there is a second
issue in that even if the web site is accessible, the material
may be in some form that is not, but that truly is a separate
issue.  A good site will let a totally blind person download all
the pictures he or she wants to stick on the hard drive, but at
least the transport system works.  A bad site won't let one get
to even the simplest ASCII text document because the navigation
is broken.  That is the problem that can and should be the
highest priority.

	The beautiful thing is that neither the javascript nor
the anchored links are mutually exclusive of one another, but
designers must realize that there is still a valid reason for
presenting data in sequential forms as well as chaotic ones.

	Those of us who are blind and who use UNIX do so because
most of it works right out of the box for us.  Browsers are the
only thing right now that are working less and less well each

Martin McCormick WB5AGZ  Stillwater, OK 
OSU Center for Computing and Information Services Data Communications Group
Received on Monday, 12 February 2001 14:58:11 UTC

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