[html4all] Accessible to whom (or to which groups) ?
ecrire at catherine-roy.net
Thu Oct 25 19:22:34 PDT 2007
> My belief is (and always has been) that
> is about making web content accessible to all, not
> to those with disabilities, and I'd be interested to
> hear the opinions of others on this (rather central,
> and almost certainly contentious) point.
Sorry I have been rather silent these last few weeks but I have had a lot on my plate lately. Anyway, I have written about this issue numerous times, whether on various mailing lists or on my blog, etc., and I never thought I would intervene on this subject again and actually, I had promised myself that I would not unless hell froze over. But well, it got kind of chilly here today at some point so I feel I should say something now, though I imagine that some of you already know what my position is on this matter.
I am sometimes amused and more often than not annoyed at what other people think (or at times even decide) what we, persons with disabilities, want or think or need. And this discussion, like many other similar ones before it, is a perfect example of that. And while I certainly do not claim to speak for all persons with disabilities (we are a very heterogeneous group after all), I think that, being who I am and doing what I do, I can probably offer a perspective that hopefully should count for something.
So to be perfectly unequivocal, while accessibility and universality (and its synonymous terms) are closely related concepts, they are not interchangeable and have specific definitions, goals and objectives. To sum it up:
Accessibility is related to how usable a resource is for persons with disabilities, regardless of the type of impairment or the means to overcome or compensate for that impairment.
Universal access (or universality, Web for all, etc.) is an ensemble of conditions that relate to availability, connectivity, interoperability, affordability, mobility, culture, accessibility, etc., (some will also add knowledge and training as well as gender issues and as society evolves, it is easy to predict that new considerations or interests are likely to be added to this list). So basically, as someone pointed out, accessibility is a part (I believe the term was “subset”) of a bigger picture.
And, notwithstanding certain inconsistencies that I suspect have more to do with the right hand not always knowing what the left hand is up to as well as certain individuals pushing their own agendas, this is generally what W3C and WAI, among others, have promoted over the years and whole programs, policies and legislations ensuring equal rights for persons with disabilities around the world have been built around this idea.
In the course of this discussion, some have alluded to the premise that by making accessibility about persons with disabilities, it amounts to special treatment and can lead to exclusion. I think that we need to see it as not “special” but as “different”. Yes I know, it may surprise some people or make them uncomfortable to contemplate it but as a person with disability, I can say, and have no problem saying it, that on certain levels, we are different, that in some areas we have different needs and that there are certain things that need to be done differently to accommodate those needs. Exclusion, as far as I am concerned, comes from not recognising and accepting those differences, rather than from deluding ourselves with the idea that we are all exactly the same. In an earlier discussion on this list, we talked about equivalence (which often relies on different ways of going about things to attain a common goal) sometimes being the road to equality (and therefore, hopefully, inclusion). To me, accessibility is in the same perspective.
Some argued their point, if I understood correctly, by offering the example that it would not be appropriate to talk about accessibility as making the Web accessible to certain ethnic or religious minorities. But you know what? I will not even get into that. Because personally, I would simply say that it is not a question of inappropriateness but of just being a very poor analogy.
So yes, while, as in other fields, accessibility can in some cases offer certain auxiliary benefits to other populations, blablabla, it most certainly, first and foremost, aims to accommodate persons with disabilities. Simply put, people without disabilities can generally live without it, whereas we generally can not. And I think that is where the importance resides.
I am very tired tonight, and generally tired of this discussion, so I hope I have not offended anyone with my directness (or bored anyone with this very long post). But I must say that I am dismayed with this thread, with the fact that we even need to bring it up here. Because while I am certainly not against the confrontation of different points of view, I was under the impression that we started this group because HTML5 was threatening the possibility for many persons with disabilities to access information on the Web by questioning or even scrapping certain accessibility features. That is why I am here. Not to re-debate something that many people in this field of activity will most likely and sadly never agree on but that many persons with disabilities do not question on a very visceral level because practically speaking, they can not afford to.
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