Meta-communication - communication about communication - is what we should address in a Workshop on Device Independent Authoring. It is imperative that we communicate, through whatever techniques available what our various forms of communication are trying to communicate. If, for example there is information conveyed by using a particular color for a particular piece of content, that fact must be communicated. This is why HTML 4 calls for certain elements to communicate what they do (using "EM" or "STRONG") instead of how they look (using "I" or "B").
Film is language. Music is language. ASL is language. Text is language. All of them can be semantically clarified.
Braille is not a language. Media aren't languages. Device Independence and Universal Design are (or ought be) inseparable twins. Although parameters of display are an integral part of presentation markup, they must not rule content.
Exclusion should not be an option. Just as blind people should be informed as to the presence (and in most cases the content/semantics) of a purely "visual" item, so should the user of a PDA or WebPhone be able to obtain usable output from Web content. Universal Design concepts make this a central issue.
The same considerations that would enable Helen Keller to access a text or graphical document apply to allowing Beethoven to have some experience of his own music or a Cell Phone user to get the arrival time of the next train.
Many arguments for Device Independence are not centered on accessibility issues, but on general usability concerns. There will always be new presentational methods as well as their use to inform as well as attract/amuse. In many cases these efforts will result in obsolescence of previous methods and the frustrations associated with learning new techniques and further hurdles to jump over (or hoops to jump through) for the beleaguered user who just wants to find out where to have dinner.
The semantics of presentation and structure must be made clear at the primary design level. Retrofitting is a nightmare and any severance of display methodologies into a separate design category will inevitably lead to flawed interoperability and exclusion with its resultant: inevitable demands for horrific redesign expenses.
From the call for position papers for this workshop:
The topics to be covered in a position paper:
Although my technical qualifications in these matters are quite limited the main attribute that qualifies me to participate in this workshop is my extensive cognizant sentience: I am old. As you will all discover, this helps and matters.
last updated: 31 July, 2000 Send comments to author.