[thelist] RE: The need for IE-only sites?

Maximillian Schwanekamp anaxamaxan at neptunewebworks.com
Thu Jul 8 12:44:42 CDT 2004

>Business is business. In a free market economy one should be free to trade
as one sees fit. >If I feel that there is no economic benefit to me making
my products accessible to a certain >cross-section of the population, then
that should be my choice.
<snip />
>During work time, I assist my employers in their business. We are not a
>company and we do not provide a public service. If you don't have a
computer you
>cannot use our service. If you don't have internet connectivity you cannot
>our service. If you don't have money you can't use our service. If you're
>you are free to use our service as you wish. You're also free to complain
if you
>don't like the means of access, but somehow we are not free to ignore your
>complaint as we would be if you were not blind. How is this fair? We (as a
>did not enter into a contract with society, pledging to allow every person
>society access to our services. We embarked on a business venture, which is
>wholly different.

Your reasoning is flawed, or at best rooted in radical laissez-faire
economics.  First of all, the question of business responsibility to provide
accessibility has been answered roundly in nations throughout Europe and the
Americas.  For example, if you have a retail store selling running ware you
are breaking the law if you do not provide a means for wheelchair uses to
enter the business.  You may argue that wheelchair users would not be
interested in your goods - but again that reasoning has been shown to be

You say you have not entered a contract with society.  You are wrong.  Being
allowed formation and identification as a business - be it a corporation or
other such entity - *is* a contract with society.  Going into business
without entering into that contract is generally itself by nature illegal.
As a business, you have a responsibility to make reasonable effort to serve
society as a whole, not just a certain segment.  Many nations have codified
this into laws (e.g. the Americans with Disabilities Act in the USA).

The primary reasons these laws have not been widely applied to web business
are a) the need to formulate reasonable standards; b) the global nature of
the web itself requires unique methods of enforcement that have also not yet
been formulated; and c) industry resistance. Yet, the spirit of the law is
clear, and just as with installing wheelchair ramps in retail stores, it's
only a matter of time before the ADA its global equivalents become more than
just ideals on the web.  Section 508 is the first step in the USA, and the
Australian Olympics website accessibility case is a precedent worth citing.

Of course, forcing users to access your site with IE only is not AFAIK
breaking such laws  per se - that is your choice (it might be argued that MS
is breaking the law by their methods of encouraging such exclusivity, but
that's an old thread).  However, the reasons for doing so usually go
hand-in-hand with ignoring accessibility issues (as your post suggests).  It
is also business-stupid.  IE marketshare is huge, but it is dropping,
especially in light of the slew of warnings about its security flaws.
Anecdotally, I can say that many of my non-tech friends are adopting Mozilla
(FF is still too new) as their primary browser, and web browser statistics
show the number of users adopting Gecko browsers growing even more quickly
than the Mac marketshare in OS.  So, from a revenue potential perspective,
how is it a good idea to develop for a single slowly-decaying browser, and
then to ignore accessibilty for another 5-10% of the IE users as well?!?
Your boss will save a few bucks at the outset, yes, but will lose money in
the long run and/or have to fund a site rebuild just a short way down the

The solution is simple, as advocated by many on this and other fine lists.
Develop to standards.  Browser accessibility questions answered, most
ability-impaired/disability issues taken care of de rigeur with only minor
tweaks necessary for full compliance.  The alternative is both verging on
illegal, and simply too wasteful of resources.

Maximillian Schwanekamp
Dynamic Websites for Microbusiness
v: +1 541-302-1438
f: +1 208-730-6504

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