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Re: the official definition [of web accessibility] from the W3C is wrong

From: Kate Perkins <kperkins@hugeinc.com>
Date: Thu, 12 Feb 2015 17:17:50 -0800
Message-ID: <CAP5ys92_9Ez2cnPQkV0=1U=wAhvjNcdEx=MsP0U=yXvu2mjk+A@mail.gmail.com>
To: Phill Jenkins <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>
Cc: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Phil, these are great points and I'm glad you brought them up.  I only have
1 year to your 20 doing this, and my experience is strictly in web.  I'm
going to find out if I can share the presentation I put together publicly,
as we addressed the issue of the user's "side" of this "gap."

In the eCommerce and marketing sites I work on, our system is simply a
website, web application, and occasionally an iOS app.  We made the call
(and maybe this is wrong — good topic to discuss) that it's safe to assume
that the kind of user coming to our non-mission-critical websites A.) can
access and B.) knows how to use some kind of assistive tech that allows
them to use a computer.  This is NOT a safe assumption when you're talking
about an ATM, or an airline kiosk.  But these assumptions change very
quickly.  Consider that 7 years ago a digital translator was an expensive
device; now it might be free on your iPhone.  (Let's avoid the argument
that the iPhone itself is expensive for the sake of the example.)  Perhaps
it's worth keeping up a curated list based on some usage stats about what
technology a representative user can be assumed to have access to?

So to your point: "Are earbuds and personal eye glasses part of the user or
part of the system?"  I believe it's a safe assumption that our web users
have either eyeglasses or earbuds if needed to operate a computer.
However, I would not say that this is a safe assumption for an ATM, airline
kiosk, or other similarly silo'd system that does not have the benefit of a
common platform.

…
HUGE
Kate Perkins Horowitz / Business Analyst
T. 718 880 3805
www.hugeinc.com / www.twitter.com/hugeinc

On Thu, Feb 12, 2015 at 4:10 PM, Phill Jenkins <pjenkins@us.ibm.com> wrote:

> Kate said: "For a conversation about accessibility to affect change, you
> have to position it as a tool to achieve the goals that your audience
> already has."
>
> OK, I really think I agree with that statement, especially from the
> perspective of inclusive design and inclusive user experience.  I regularly
> use the concepts of disability and accessibility when identifying the
> "hills" (Note 1: a design thinking term) for the web app being designed.
>
> When Kate says: " Our definition: "*Disability is the deficit between
> user and system capability.  Is it the responsibility of the system, not
> the user, to bridge that deficit.*"
> is fine until you better define the term "system".  One of the issues I
> discussed was where the "system' that everyone else had was able to bridge
> the deficit for them.  And so then you quickly get to the point of which
> part of the system needs to finishing bridging the deficit.
>
> For example, if the 'system' doesn't have voice command and control as an
> alternative to keyboard or mouse command and control, then it doesn't
> bridge the deficit needed by many individuals.  If the response is, oh,
> just get an additional piece of assistive technology, I'm OK with that too,
> as long as that assistive technology is capable of inter-operating with the
> rest of the system and the rest of the system has a way (APIs, keyboard
> commands to map the voice commands to, etc.) of inter-operating with the
> assistive technology.  My early ViaVoice example was where it wasn't
> initially capable if being used by a person who couldn't use a mouse - the
> ViaVoice plus the 'rest of the system' didn't bridge the deficit because of
> an early problem in ViaVoice itself, not with the rest of the system.  The
> system was accessible to a lot of *other* users, and accessible to a lot
> of *other* users who had other assistive technologies combined with it,
> but for those users who not only wanted to use voice command & control, but
> for which it was *essential* that it *fully* inter-operate with the rest
> of the system, the 'system' wasn't fully accessible to them.
>
> So, for your definition of 'disability' (the gap) to be effective in
> causing change, or my definition of 'accessibility' (gap is bridged), the
> definition has to include the definition of the 'users' - and - 'system',
> *all* the parts of the system that have responsibilities.  I believe what
> the community, especially the accessibility community has been doing for
> the last 33 years since the advent of the Personal Computer in 1981, is
> devising adaptive devices, creating assistive technologies (AT), and adding
> capabilities into the 'system'.
>
> Often it is not effective to tell web sites owners or web app designers
> that they are responsible for the "*whole system*" or "bridging the *whole
> deficit*".  There is an implied essential partnership between the
> components in the system - between the AT, the browser, the platform
> (operating systems such as Windows, iOS, Android, etc.).  If the Web app
> meets the success criteria of WCAG, and the browser meets the success
> criteria is UAAG, then we can say that at least those two components have
> met their responsibility.  There still may be a deficit between some users
> and the system, but at least we know where to focus our efforts to bridge
> the rest of that deficit.
>
> When defining the 'user' we also have to think of the user's education,
> training, and awareness.  Often the user will experience a problem - a
> disability - a deficit between the user and the system, but the problem or
> fix is actually on the user's side.  For example, if the fonts appear too
> small, and the web site owner has made it compatible with zoom, and the
> browser provides zoom, but the user doesn't know to use zoom (or forgot to
> zoom), then it is the user that needs to do his or her part.  Sure we could
> also expand the definition of 'system' to include the social
> responsibilities - for example we could say that the 'system' failed the
> person because the 'system component' that is responsible for providing the
> education, training, and awareness (e.g. advocacy groups) failed. Or
> perhaps some other responsible party in the ecosystem.  But I prefer to
> simplify it for web site owners and instruct them on *their*
> responsibilities, and make them aware of the other possible deficits in
> other system components that they may choose to compensate for.  A real
> life example from the late 1990's - when explaining 'disability' to a bunch
> of "new web masters", I was asked: "does that mean I need to produce a
> radio version (audio broadcast) of my web site?  I replied, No!, the vision
> impaired person gets and uses a screen reader, which reads the text (via
> TTS or Refreshable Braille), you Mr Web Master just have to make it
> compatible with the screen reader.  To which I was then asked, "Well, who
> provides them the screen reader?  Which ones do I need to test?,
>
> Are earbuds and personal eye glasses part of the user or part of the
> system?  the answer matters because your definition said that "*Is it the
> responsibility of the system, not the user, to bridge that deficit.*"
>
> Also, why redefine the term 'disability'? Why not just use the phrase: "*deficit
> between user and system capability*" as the thing to focus on?
> Disability is defined in lost of places (Wikipedia, WHO, etc.) and could
> cause confusion with our goal of bridging the gap, eliminating the
> deficits, etc. etc.  In other words I agree with your intent of affecting
> change.
>
> My challenge over the past almost 2 decades has been where best to focus
> my energies to most efficiently affect improvement (not just change).  That
> is my challenge to all of us in this community.  Quoting Dallin H, Oaks,
> whom I have come to respect  - "We have to forego some *good* things in
> order to choose others that are *better* or *best".*
>
> I also recommend that our definition of 'accessibility' (or 'disability')
> needs to have both a visual graphic and a text description to be able to
> 'fully communicate' the definition of the concepts and components we are
> trying to use to inspire ourselves and others to take action.
>
> For a nice visual graphic and text description of the essential components
> of the concept of "web accessibility" - see
> http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/components.php
> ____________________________________________
> Regards,
> Phill Jenkins,
> IBM Accessibility
> http://www.ibm.com/able
> http://www.facebook.com/IBMAccessibility
> http://twitter.com/IBMAccess
> http://www.linkedin.com/in/philljenkins
>
> Note 1: Hills - in IBM Design Thinking, *Hills* are clear statements that
> frame project's releases on *user outcomes*. Rather than cataloging a
> list of features, functions and capabilities for a project, designers,
> engineers, and project managers work together to define what users should
> be able to do when working with the product.
Received on Friday, 13 February 2015 01:19:05 UTC

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