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RE: LIFT Text Transcoder

for

From: Stewart, Ron
Date: Jul 26, 2006 11:20AM


Good morning,

I was going to stay out of this one, but it has been a bad day and this
does not help. This conversation repeats itself every couple of years,
and will probably continue to do so until colleges and universities
fully understand what accessibility and usability are about, something
that can not be relied on from vendors who's bottom line interest is to
not have them educated.

This is an old and often repeated discussion on several fronts, those of
us who have been involved in it over the years tend to not even say
anything anymore. I have talked to the UsableNET folks several times,
and have asked them to tone down the rhetoric their marketing folks are
using, but obviously to no avail. This is a second class solution that
results in a back of the bus mentality in regards to accessibility.
While it does result in a website that technically meets the letter of
the law, I think it is a long way from meeting the spirit of the law!

The tool only works on websites that are basically accessible on the
front end, and if they are not accessible it takes a fair amount of work
on the part of the web development staff, or even easier you can pay
UsableNET to do it for you, at a fairly decent cost. When the real
"accessibility experts" start using this and other products of its kind,
then I will start recommending it to the colleges and universities that
I work with. At this point I suggest to them to ignore the high
pressure marketing, and spend their money on educating and testing of
their sites with persons with disabilities.

Lets end this tit for tat discussion and get back to talking about REAL
accessibility

Ron Stewart

*********************************************************************
Ron Stewart
Technology Advisor - AHEAD
Chair, AHEAD E-Text Solutions Group
66 Witherspoon Street Suite 352
Princeton, NJ 08542
<EMAIL REMOVED>
http://www.ahead.org


-----Original Message-----
From: <EMAIL REMOVED>
[mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ] On Behalf Of Jason Taylor
Sent: Wednesday, July 26, 2006 12:51 PM
To: Philip Kiff
Cc: <EMAIL REMOVED> ; Jason Taylor
Subject: RE: [WebAIM] LIFT Text Transcoder

Dear Philip

Your are right in your description of the basic process but too harsh on
the negative view and limited in your vision. Partnering with UsableNet
and LIFT Text Transcoder and other LIFT products gives clients options
and opens up content quickly to more people.

Too many times people over react to positive efforts organizations make
towards supporting assistive users just because it does not fit their
view, much like in this case. The University of Georgia are very
committed to web accessibility in many forms, including encouraging
creating good code from the start and aids such as the LIFT Text
Transcoder.

Over criticizing organization that have dedicate time and resources to
better support assistive users will only have a long term negative
effect.

I will take on board some of your positioning comments but in general do
not share your view of what satisfies legal requirements. Our commitment
to our clients and users of the view generated by LIFT Text Transcoder
is that we will ensue any assistive device user will be able to get to
any content they need to in a comparable way as any other user. This is
our commitment, this is something LIFT Text Transcoder can achieve and
we think this is super important and we spend 110% of our time, skill
and efforts achieve this for our customers.

Kind Regards
Jason Taylor

> Another overly long post. Too much time on my hands this morning.
>
> On July 26, 2006 06:08 EST, Jason Taylor wrote:
>> In light of your recent postings on WebAim I wanted to extend an
invitation to you all to become more educated with how LIFT Text
Transcoder works...
> [....]
>> I would be happy to take you through a simple web demo to help you
>> see
why many are adding this to their overall strategy....
>
> I think it is pretty clear how it works and no additional demo is
necessary.
> The Text Transcoder pulls the page from the source, manipulates it and
augments it according to specs and "annotations", then sends it to the
user
> as a new, improved page. With the use of these "annotations", page
> content can be programmatically re-coded and/or re-ordered. The
> product also
provides users with the option of selecting various layout options for
themselves. That about covers it, right?
>
> As a piece of technology, it is neat-o: I am always interested in
> seeing
how
> website data can be manipulated. But that doesn't make it a solution
> I
would recommend except in very special and/or temporary circumstances.
I
> feel the same way about the Apache server mod_accessibility that I
mentioned
> in my earlier post.
>
> The criticisms I listed against the use of a text-only (or "dynamic
assistive friendly view") version still stand, I think. And now that I
read
> them, the ones that Tim identified on his blog posting back in 2003
> all
seem
> to continue to apply as well.
>
> On July 26, 2006 06:08 EST, Jason Taylor wrote:
>> I hope you agree that having this ability to quickly improve a sites
access without having to find and schedule the changes on the original
site is powerful. Although we would agree and continue to encourage our
customers in better original design (we even sell tools to help with
this), many times the resources are not allocated quickly enough and
assistive users get left out. With this solution we can act as a partner
to the organization and help quickly to improve vast amounts of content.
>
> Yes, this seems to me to be the strength of the product and the
> service
provided by LIFT. Speed. And yes, I am impressed with the example of
the
> service you can provide by putting through overnight changes to your
Text
> Transcoder version of the UGA site. But that's not a strong enough
> selling point for me.
>
> Besides, it is difficult to evaluate the actual value of the service
> in
this
> particular case without knowing the costs involved, reviewing the
> total UGA web budget, and understanding how this fits in to the
> overall UGA site
development plans. I mean, this is summertime, right? Having an
overnight
> turnaround on changes to the Text Transcoder version of a university
website
> in the summer is not really necessary. And a site the size of UGA
shouldn't
> be resorting to quick fixes...UGA has a total annual budget of 1.3
billion
> dollars, they've got their own massive IT department with hardware
resources
> that lots of companies can only dream of, and an entire computer
> science
department (with both an MA and a PhD program) full of bright, energetic
website whizzes who are struggling right now to find enough paid summer
work
> to get them through the next academic year. These students would LOVE
to
> get a well-paid job working on the UGA site. Why would UGA (or any
other
> university for that matter) even consider turning to an out-of-house
solution for anything to do with their own website? Indeed, I bet I
could
> make a good case that in the long-run a university will actually save
> money by investing now in the human resources required to improve
> their site now, in-house rather than off-loading it to a service like
> LIFT Text Transcoder.
> But I digress...
>
> On July 24, 2006 17:45 EST, Ann Jenkins wrote:
>>> I don't know anything about the product except what is on their web
site, and I realize UsableNet LIFT products are reputable, but somehow
this feels like a
>>> quick fix, too good to be true solution to their web accessibility
problems. I felt a bit alarmed that they think this can meet their
government required accessibility problems. Any thoughts?
>
> On July 26, 2006 06:08 EST, Jason Taylor wrote:
>> ...Although we would agree and continue to encourage our customers in

>> better original design (we even sell tools to help
with this), many times the resources are not allocated quickly enough
and assistive users get left out.
>
> On July 26, 2006 07:44 EST, Patrick Lauke wrote:
>> However, particularly in certain management circles, LIFT won't be
>> seen as a transitional solution (until the original is made more
>> accessible), but as a permanent one (why do we now need to make the
>> original more
accessible? we've just spent money on that text only version, that
covers us doesn't it?)
>
> I am happy to hear that LIFT continues to encourage clients to improve
the
> original design of their sites to improve accessibility. And I am
> quite
certain that LIFT and its entire staff are 110% committed to web
accessibility issues. However, the danger that Patrick identifies is
real,
> as evidenced by Ann's original question. Non-technical managers who
> are
looking to meet governmental or legal obligations may very well see the
LIFT
> Text Transcoder as a quick fix method to accessibility problems. It
fits
> very well into a common management problem-solving structure: throw
> some
money at the problem, assign the responsibility to an external body, and
then simply forget about it until a complaint comes in. I would hope
that
> the community of people working on web accessibility issues would
discourage
> this kind of approach and instead highlight the value of making
> incremental, ongoing improvements to a website -- not only because
> this will benefit
people with disabilities, but because that is the correct, long-term
solution for all users in almost all cases.
>
> The WCAG 1.0 includes specific mention of the use of "alternative"
> versions of pages and it discourages against it:
> "Content developers should only resort to alternative pages when other
solutions fail because alternative pages are generally updated less
often
> than "primary" pages. An out-of-date page may be as frustrating as one

> that is inaccessible since, in both cases, the information presented
> on the
original page is unavailable. Automatically generating alternative pages
may
> lead to more frequent updates, but content developers must still be
> careful to ensure that generated pages always make sense, and that
> users are
able
> to
> navigate a site by following links on primary pages, alternative
> pages,
or
> both. Before resorting to an alternative page, reconsider the design
> of the original page; making it accessible is likely to improve it for
all users."
> (Note to 11.4: <http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT-TECHS/#gl-use-w3c>;

> )
>
> I think that the purpose of including the possibility of "alternative"
versions is really to address situations where content simply cannot be
made
> accessible, i.e. "when other solutions fail", and not really to
> address
situations where someone just doesn't have the time or money to figure
out
> the available solution. In that context, I see the LIFT Text
> Transcoder as a tool that is interesting as a demonstration of what
> kinds of site
transformations are currently possible and that may be of use, usually
temporarily, in specific cases, for certain websites, and that is all.
>
> But that is not what a non-technical manager will think when they
> visit
usablenet.com. No. In fact, on the current home page of usablenet.com
<http://www.usablenet.com/>;, the LIFT Text Transcoder appears under the
heading "ADA Web Solution" and the product's name LIFT Text Transcoder
actually includes the acronym "A.D.A." in parentheses beside the title,
as
> though it is part of the name itself. And in the copy on the home
> page
it
> explains "LIFT Transcoder immediately - at no impact to client IT or
> web
development resources - creates an accessible (compliant) view of all
web
> content." The word "compliant" and the repeated use of the acronym
> ADA
would naturally lead someone to believe that the LIFT Transcoder is the
"solution" for web managers who need to make their sites "compliant"
with
> the "ADA". In my opinion, this is misleading advertising, and it is
> adding to the potential confusion amongst non-technical managers about

> the purpose and potential use of the LIFT Transcoder, despite the fact

> that
elsewhere
> the usablenet.com site is more clear about the idea of the Transcoder
> as
just one part of a larger accessibility strategy.
>
> In light of the confusion that this seems to create, I would encourage

> LIFT to change some of the promotional copy associated with the LIFT
Transcoder
> product.
>
> None of this means that the LIFT Text Transcoder is a bad product. It
looks
> to me to be a great product at doing what it does -- really ingenious
> in
many ways. It's just that I don't think that function is particularly
useful except in very rare cases. And I also feel that at the moment it
may
> in fact be encouraging principles or understandings that don't line up

> with my personal view of how to promote the use of accessible website
> design
across the world.
>
> Regards,
>
> Philip Kiff.
>
>
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