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Concerns about Access

I do not use many graphic images on these pages because as an owner of an older computer and as one who often uses 28.8k phone lines, I do not want to slow downloading by adding lots of bells and whistles for no reason. Sands (2000), a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, explained his minimal use of graphics in terms with which I agree. On his web site he wrote, "I've kept this site stripped to the bare essentials as a conscious recognition of the need for equitable access to emerging technologies. If the Web is only accessible to those with the fastest or newest machines, then we have surely struck a terrible blow against the free and open exchange of information . . ." Obviously Sands' concerns, like mine, still only focus on a very small portion of society, given the great disparity between those who have access to computers and those who don't (Benton Foundation, 1998; Olson, 1995). Moran (1999) estimates that 98 percent of the world's population does not have access to the internet, a percentage that is probably lower when examining the population of the United States, but still significant enough to be of concern. So my discussion of how I've modified this page to make it more "accessible" is really focusing on ways that I've made it more accessible to those who already have access in the first place.

Ways I made this site more accessible:

1) I decided to use small pictures. If a picture needs to be larger for the full detail to be seen, I've inserted a small image on the page with a link to a page comprised of a larger version of the same image. That way people can choose whether they want the potentially longer downloading time caused by a larger image. I also did this because according to a recent study published in "Science," the average time people are willing to wait for a page to download is 15 seconds and for people with faster machines this time limit may be as low as 10 seconds (Huberman, Pirolli, Pitkow & Lukose 1998).

2) I included alt. tags with all images. These, as I learned recently, are text explanations of a graphic image, and they are useful for people with limited vision whose computerized readers will read the tag, thus giving them an idea of all of the material on a web page. Also, if someone has a text-based-only browser, they too will get a full description of the web page.

3) I did not include layers, buttons, or frames because those too can take a long time to download. (And, to be honest, while I've figured out layers and buttons--I think!--frames seem a bit more complicated, and I was warned, as a beginner, to avoid them.)