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RE: Barriers to accessibility


From: Tim Smith
Date: May 17, 2000 11:55PM

I would like to take a moment and comment on your short summary. I
apologize if my comments reflect my lack of time to spend with the issues in
Number 1
First, I would be careful to define who we mean when we say "Institutions"
Who is the institution? Is it the administration, the IT specialists, the
library and media folks or the webmasters? I think one major problem with
institutional coordination is that we often do not have a clear definition
of who at a given institution is responsible for coordinating web efforts.
Is it a group of administrators who know very little about technical issues,
a group of technicians who understand little about institutional missions,
some other group or a combination?
Number 2
As a result of number one, we end up with number 2. The sheer number of web
designers makes it very difficult to direct any sustainable coordinated
Number 3
I think number 3 deals with why web designers don't make changes. Instead,
we should focus on if the "Institution" (whomever we decide this is) has
the responsibility to raise the level of awareness, provide the training to
help web developers gain the skills and provide motivations for them to rise
to the level of accessibility. My hypotheses is that most institutions
don't do any of these as it relates to accessibility or even in web design
in general. Might there also be a lack of awareness not only on the part of
the designers but with the institutution itself.
Number 4
I think this is an important impediment a universities success with regard
to web development. We employ a high number of students for web design and
pay scales are so low in education for full time webmasters that we often
lose them to industry.
Number 5
I don't know quite what you mean by adaptive equipment.
I know I visited a state institution for blind a year ago and was appalled
to see that they were using two year old browsers. The reason they had not
upgraded is that the administration did not understand that newer browsers
would significantly improve their access to accessible materials and it
puzzled me why the system administrators responsible for the software were
not more aware of such a simple issue. Again this may point to a general
lack of awareness institution wide. Is old adaptive equipment because of
budget restraints, awareness problems, time contraints (overworked technical
specialists), laziness, etc?
Number 6
Not sure how this relates to the idea of institutional coordination.
Overall my barriers would be:
1. The decentralized or fragmented environment most insititutions face with
regard to web development.
2. The lack of a centralized plan and policies to help guide the
institutions web efforts.
3. The lack of awareness institution wide.
4. The lack of resources including monetary and leadership resources to
properly address the issue (developing a plan, policies, and overseeing
their implementation).
5. The lack of a perceived need to even worry about the issue.
I threw these out really quickly so they open for discussion.
Thank you for creating the forum for dialogue.
Tim G. Smith