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Re: Kynn's Soapbox: Accessibility and Usability (was: accessibility makeovers)

From: Paul Bohman <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 10:15:45 -0700
Message-ID: <002f01c0b873$e481b730$20117b81@paul>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, "Kynn Bartlett" <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Hi, Kynn,

In response to what you said (which I'll quote):

> Yes, you can take a highly graphical, mostly inaccessible (to certain key
> audiences) web page and make it "accessible".  This is relatively easy
> and won't hurt the graphical layout . . . HOWEVER, the next problem is one
of usability

I totally agree with you. In fact, you'll probably remember that you and I
had a conversation at WebNet 2000 about this issue, and the fact that I had
ideas for creating a system similar to the one that you've been working on.
With all the other things that WebAIM is trying to achieve, our server-side
solution has been put on a [much] slower track, but the idea is still in the
front of my mind as a true solution not just for accessibility but for

While many of the big name web sites have *usability* problems for people
with disabilities, it is kind of a moot point because of the
*inaccessibility* of the site. Again, I'll be the first one to agree with
you if you tell me that both problems can be fixed at the same time with an
intelligent server-side scripting solution. There is no need to convert me
on that point at all.

Still, the reason that I'm putting together a collection of website
makeovers is to show that the "main" version of a page can be accessible
(even if not optimized for specific disability types). I think that you
would agree that even sites that use server-side optimization should still
produce a so-called "main" version which is at least minimally accessible.

Speaking hypothetically, there would be no advantage to producing 7
accessible versions (optimized for each of 7 types of disabilities) and 1
version for people without disabilities, with no accessibility fixes (e.g.
without alt tags, etc.). When all the content is coming from the same source
(database or XML for example) you can include your basic accessibility fixes
in your main version just as easily as leave them out. My preference would
be to leave the fixes in, even if the page is not optimized for people with
any specific type of disability.

Maybe we can convince the developers at the big sites to jump on the
accessibility bandwagon completely, and to adopt a total solution such as
the one that you've developed. Some companies will do that. Others will balk
at the idea because of implementation costs (whether real or perceived). If
I can just get some of them to update their templates (by putting in only a
few hours of work), then I have at least opened up that web site to people
with disabilities, even if I haven't made it a location that is as
comfortable as their own home.

There are many techniques that we can use to hook people on the idea of
accessibility. I have advocated server-side solutions when talking to
certain groups of programmers before, because of their receptiveness to the
concept. I will continue to do so. I will also continue to advocate making
pages that at least meet *some* standard of accessibility rather than none.

Paul Bohman
Technology Coordinator
WebAIM: Web Accessibility in Mind (www.webaim.org)
at the Center for Persons with Disabilities (www.cpd.usu.edu)
at Utah State University (www.usu.edu)
Received on Thursday, 29 March 2001 12:15:22 UTC

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