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Disabilities and Wikipedia

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Article 2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind [...] or other status.

The hypothetical quadriplegic girl

Quadriplegic using a head wand to write on a touchscreen interface

From the Wikipedia information team

Date: Thu, 14 May 2009 01:37
To: info@wikimedia.org
From: "Virgilio A. P. Machado" <vam@fct.unl.pt>
Subject: Wikimedia Foundation policies

Dear Sirs,

In case this message was send to the wrong address, please forward it to the appropriate office.

Yesterday, ([1]) while discussing a private case, whose full details are confidential I described a strict hypothetical case as follows:

Suppose a tetraplegic girl learns how to use a computer and finds out about Wikipedia. After registering as a user she does all sort of trampling. Would there be any administrator available to block her from editing Wikipedia?

So far, three administrators,(1-3) one of them a bureaucrat(2) [at the time] have answered YES.

The administrator bureaucrat later quoted Wikimedia:Non discrimination policy, explaining that that policy did NOT allow them to treat editors differently, based on their [...] medical condition. Wikimedia:Code of Conduct Policy was also quoted.

I wonder if you would care to comment on all of the above.

Sincerely,

Prof. Virgilio A. P. Machado vam@fct.unl.pt
Engenharia Industrial http://web.archive.org/web/20070824105539/www.ipei.pt/GDEI/
DEMI/FCT/UNL Fax: 351-21-294-8546 or 21-294-8531
Universidade de Portugal or 351-21-295-4461
2829-516 Caparica Tel.: 351-21-294-8542 or 21-294-8567
PORTUGAL or 351-21-294-8300 or 21 294-8500
Ext.112-32
[96-577-3726]
Faculdade de Ciencias e Tecnologia/UNL (FCT/UNL)

(Dr. Machado is Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering at the
School of Sciences and Engineering/UNL of the University of Portugal)

(1) Daimore 01h49min 13 May 2009 (UTC)
(2) Lechatjaune 16h07min 13 May 2009 (UTC)
(3) Teles 21h29min 13 May 2009 (UTC)


Subject: Re: [Ticket#2009051410000813] Wikimedia Foundation policies
Date: Thu, 14 May 2009 05:46
To: "Virgilio A. P. Machado" <vam@fct.unl.pt>
Organization: Wikimedia
From: Wikipedia information team <info-en@wikimedia.org>

Dear Virgilio A. P. Machado,

Thank you for your email.

I suggest discussing such matters on the public mailing-lists (foundation-l or similar) at mail.wikimedia.org. I'm sorry but I don't think that the Foundation is interested in making a statement on hypothetical, drawn out cases.

Yours sincerely,
Bernard Dupre
--
Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org
---
Disclaimer: all mail to this address is answered by volunteers, and responses are not to be considered an official statement of the Wikimedia Foundation. For official correspondence, please contact the Wikimedia Foundation by certified mail at the address listed on http://www.wikimediafoundation.org


Date: Fri, 15 May 2009 01:13
To: Wikipedia information team <info-en@wikimedia.org>
From: "Virgilio A. P. Machado" <vam@fct.unl.pt>
Subject: Re: [Ticket#2009051410000813] Wikimedia Foundation policies

Thank you for volunteering such a prompt answer. I believe a good point was raised: that the Foundation might not be interested in making a statement on hypothetical, drawn out cases.

My message however asked if you would care to comment on all of the above. The above included a very real and clear statement made by an administrator bureaucrat, who by the way is also a member of the of arbitration committee, which can be found here (the quotations are in English): [2]

He quoted the Wikimedia:Non discrimination policy, explaining that that policy did NOT allow them to treat editors differently, based on their [...] medical condition. Wikimedia:Code of Conduct Policy was also quoted.

I believe that "medical condition" includes the whole spectrum of physical and mental illnesses, but please let me know if my interpretation is not correct.

I wonder if you would care to comment on what the administrator wrote.

Sincerely,

Virgilio A. P. Machado


Date: Fri, 15 May 2009 09:43
To: "Virgilio A. P. Machado" <vam@fct.unl.pt>
Organization: Wikimedia
From: Wikipedia information team <info-en@wikimedia.org>

Dear Virgilio A. P. Machado,

Thank you for your email.

Can you please raise such questions on public mailing-lists?

Yours sincerely,
Bernard Dupre
--
Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org
---
Disclaimer: all mail to this address is answered by volunteers, and responses are not to be considered an official statement of the Wikimedia Foundation. For official correspondence, please contact the Wikimedia Foundation by certified mail at the address listed on http://www.wikimediafoundation.org

From the Foundation-l mailing list

Date: Thu, 14 May 2009 23:19 [3] [4]
To: foundation-l@lists.wikimedia.org
From: "Virgilio A. P. Machado" <vam@fct.unl.pt>
Subject: [Foundation-l] pt:wiki policies

Dear Sirs,

The day before yesterday ([5]), while discussing a private case, whose full details are confidential, I described a strictly hypothetical case as follows:

Suppose a tetraplegic girl learns how to use a computer and finds out about Wikipedia. After registering as a user she does all sort of trampling. Would there be any administrator willing to block her from editing Wikipedia?

Three administrators, one of them a bureaucrat and member of arbitration committee have answered YES.

The administrator bureaucrat later quoted Wikimedia:Non discrimination policy, explaining that that policy did NOT allow them to treat editors differently, based on their [...] medical condition. Wikimedia:Code of Conduct Policy was also quoted.

I wonder if you would care to comment on all of the above.

Sincerely,

Virgilio A. P. Machado


Phil Nash
Thu May 14 18:40:41 UTC 2009

I don't think it's a case of discrimination; presumably her physical disability does not impair her mental faculty, and she is aware of what she is doing- and certainly should be after a number of warnings. If it's just a case of being unable to communicate effectively, we do have users on en:wiki with similar issues, and have persuaded them to be adopted by willing mentors. However, the bottom line to me is whether the harm to the encyclopedia (willed or not) outweighs the benefit of having that person editing.


Date: Fri, 15 May 2009 22:35
To: mbimmler
From: "Virgilio A. P. Machado" <vam@fct.unl.pt>
Subject: My mess in foundation-l

Michael,

Thanks for kindly posting my message of May 14 on "foundation-l." There's been already a wise and moderate comment from Phil Nash that I appreciate.

[...]

Just for your information, please be aware that I'm already being harassed on the Portuguese (pt) Wikipedia ([6]) for bringing up the subject of my message on "foundation-l." [...]

Sincerely,

Prof. Virgilio A. P. Machado vam@fct.unl.pt
Engenharia Industrial http://web.archive.org/web/20070824105539/www.ipei.pt/GDEI/
DEMI/FCT/UNL Fax: 351-21-294-8546 or 21-294-8531
Universidade de Portugal or 351-21-295-4461
2829-516 Caparica Tel.: 351-21-294-8542 or 21-294-8567
PORTUGAL or 351-21-294-8300 or 21 294-8500
Ext.112-32
[96-577-3726]
Faculdade de Ciencias e Tecnologia/UNL (FCT/UNL)

(Dr. Machado is Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering at the
School of Sciences and Engineering/UNL of the University of Portugal)


From: Michael Bimmler
Date: Fri, 15 May 2009 16:23
Subject: Re: My mess in foundation-l
To: "Virgilio A. P. Machado" <vam@fct.unl.pt>

Hi,

many thanks for your message, I am glad that you raise this topic on foundation-l which I personally consider to be very important.

[...]

I am very saddened to hear about your harassment on pt.wikipedia.org, and I believe that certainly deserves to be raised on foundation-l, whether in a separate thread or not is really not that important, we're not very strict about this. I suggest, thus, that in your reply to Phil, you include a reference to the fact that you're being [harassed] for the sole cause of raising this on foundation-l [...] The right to express oneself on an international level is fundamental to the Wikimedia projects [...]

If you would like to discuss this privately with an experienced staff member of the Wikimedia Foundation, then I would propose that you email Cary Bass, the Volunteer Coordinator, cary@wikimedia.org He has a great deal of experience as community member and also mediator in complicated situations in individual project.

I hope this helps and if I can be of further assistance, I shall be glad, although I will end my formal involvement with Wikimedia at the end of May.

Best wishes from Canada,

Michael Bimmler


Date: Sun, 17 May 2009 05:22
To: cary@wikimedia.org
From: "Virgilio A. P. Machado" <vam@fct.unl.pt>
Subject: pt:wiki policies

Cary,

Based on some advice I got from Michael Bimmler [...] I decided to send to you the draft of a post intended for the foundation-l mailing list so that we may discuss it privately.

Michael told me that you are the Volunteer Coordinator and an experienced staff member of the Wikimedia Foundation. He also mentioned that you have a great deal of experience as community member and mediator in complicated situations in individual projects.

I'll wait for your reply before posting something that, for some reason, might not be right.

This is in reference to: [7]

Draft of my next post follows:


I would like to thank Michael Bimmler for steering me through this mailing list. Michael always addressed me in a polite, professional, and non-judgmental manner. It was a pleasure to correspond with him. We had the kind and level of interaction I was expecting to find at the pt:wiki. Thanks also for the sensible comment made by Phil Nash. Although we might not be in complete agreement, some good points were raised and the benefit of experience is of great value.

Let me try to organize the discussion by separating a) a very real general question from b) my hypothetical example. I believe that the discussion of real examples will be beneficial to both.

a) A very real and clear statement was made by an administrator bureaucrat, also a member of the arbitration committee, which can be found here (the quotations are in English): [8]

He quoted the Wikimedia:Non discrimination policy, explaining that that policy did NOT allow them to treat editors differently, based on their [...] medical condition. Wikimedia:Code of Conduct Policy was also quoted.

I believe that "medical condition" includes the whole spectrum of physical and mental illnesses, but please let me know if my interpretation is not correct.

Phil Nash states that in case a registered user is not able to communicate effectively, as it has already happened on en:wiki, they have been persuaded to be adopted by willing mentors.

I consider that a good example of treating editors differently based on their medical condition. This is also similar to the special treatment given inexperienced users, namely through the Adopt-a-User program ([9]) that has a parallel in the Portuguese Wikipedia (please see interlanguage link.)

That procedure also conforms to current non discriminatory legislation in many countries that makes it compulsory to provide ramps for wheelchairs, Braille markings and sound warnings, and special education for those with all sorts of illnesses, both physical and mental. That is, a non discriminatory policy means that you treat people differently based on their medical condition. NOT treating editors differently, based on their medical condition, is considered DISCRIMINATION.

In the Portuguese Wikipedia, as exemplified by the statement of that administrator bureaucrat, and member of the arbitration committee, there is the exact opposite understanding and interpretation, contrary to what non discrimination is. So far, nobody else has contradicted that position which was only disclosed in response to my questioning.

My point is that this state of affairs in the Portuguese Wikipedia cannot be tolerated, condoned and supported by the resources of the Wikimedia Foundation, generously provided by volunteers and donors keen on improving the general knowledge and welfare of humankind and not the misguidance of a group that actively or with their silence have taken over the Portuguese Wikipedia. Swift and drastic measures need to be taken to stop this.

b) My strictly hypothetical case assumed that a [quadriplegic] girl had learned how to use a computer and found out about Wikipedia. After registering as a user she did all sort of trampling. To my question if there would be any administrator willing to block her from editing Wikipedia, three administrators, one of them a bureaucrat and member of the arbitration committee answered YES: [10]

No dissenting opinion has been published, to this date, anywhere on the Portuguese Wikipedia. I have refused to do so for the reasons stated at the conclusions of both part a) and b).

This is in stark contrast with the assumptions and procedures advocated by Phil Nash.

First he narrows the case to one in which her physical disability does not impair her mental faculties, that she is aware of what she is doing, and certainly should be after a number of warnings. There's no problem with this scenario since it is added:

"If it's just a case of being unable to communicate effectively, we do have users on en:wiki with similar issues, and have persuaded them to be adopted by willing mentors". Thus a procedure is suggested to prevent errors at the source or have someone at the ready to revert them, without requesting for the user blocking. Admittedly, the corrective actions of such mentor would also avoid the need for those requests to be made and to act on them. I find this a viable and correct approach.

I beg to differ with Phil Nash when he states that "However, the bottom line to me is whether the harm to the encyclopedia (willed or not) outweighs the benefit of having that person editing". It is not difficult to conclude, even without any figures, that this kind of benefits-cost analysis would make any action in favor of the disabled unfeasible, and disability rights laws unactable. The very nature of Wikipedia makes it impossible to produce any harm comparable to the benefit of making its edition available to anyone whose capable of doing it, no matter at what cost in reverts. There's already enough vandalism being done by people supposedly sound of mind and body. It's hard to imagine that the marginal costs of handling the errors of the disabled would put the project in jeopardy. There might even be a way to tap additional resources to cope with such costs.

[...]

Just for your information, please be aware that I'm already being harassed on the Portuguese Wikipedia ([11]) for bringing up this subject on "foundation-l." [...]

Sincerely,

Prof. Virgilio A. P. Machado vam@fct.unl.pt
Engenharia Industrial http://web.archive.org/web/20070824105539/www.ipei.pt/GDEI/
DEMI/FCT/UNL Fax: 351-21-294-8546 or 21-294-8531
Universidade de Portugal or 351-21-295-4461
2829-516 Caparica Tel.: 351-21-294-8542 or 21-294-8567
PORTUGAL or 351-21-294-8300 or 21 294-8500
Ext.112-32
[96-577-3726]
Faculdade de Ciencias e Tecnologia/UNL (FCT/UNL)

(Dr. Machado is Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering at the
School of Sciences and Engineering/UNL of the University of Portugal)


Date: Wed, 20 May 2009 23:3
To: cary@wikimedia.org
From: "Virgilio A. P. Machado" <vam@fct.unl.pt>
Subject: Fwd: pt:wiki policies
Cc: mbimmler@gmail.com

Cary,

I haven't heard from you since I send you the message [above]. Not knowing if you have even received it, I'm forwarding it with a request for a return receipt. Please accept my apologies if you haven't acknowledged or answered my message due to more pressing matters or any other reason.

I'm struggling with the need to act with a timely follow up and the caution against rushing into an environment (the foundation-l mailing list) that I don't know at all.

A copy of this message is being sent to Michael Bimmler so that I might have a chance to benefit from a word of advice from him, before the end of the month. He might even be able to reach you, and advise me based on what he gathers from that contact.

Sincerely,

Virgilio A. P. Machado


Date: Wed, 20 May 2009 16:58
From: cary@wikimedia.org
Subject: Accusé de réception (affiché) - Fwd: pt:wiki policies
To: <vam@fct.unl.pt>

Ceci est un accusé de réception pour le courrier électronique envoyé à cary[...].

Note : Cet accusé de réception indique seulement que le message a été affiché sur l'ordinateur du destinataire. Il n'y a aucune garantie que le destinataire ait lu ou compris le contenu du message.

Date: Wed, 20 May 2009 23:32
To: cary@wikimedia.org
From: "Virgilio A. P. Machado" <vam@fct.unl.pt>
Subject: Fwd: pt:wiki policies
Cc: mbimmler[...]


Date: Fri, 05 Jun 2009 18:16
To: foundation-l@lists.wikimedia.org
From: "Virgilio A. P. Machado" <vam@fct.unl.pt>
Subject: pt:wiki policies

This is in reference to: [12]

I would like to thank Michael Bimmler for steering me through this mailing list. Michael always addressed me in a polite, professional, and non-judgmental manner. It was a pleasure to correspond with him. We had the kind and level of interaction I was expecting to find at the pt:wiki. Thanks also for the sensible comment made by Phil Nash. Although we might not be in complete agreement, some good points were raised and the benefit of experience is of great value. Twice I asked for Cary Bass' advice about posting this message, but I'm sorry to say that I never got an answer. According to Michael, Cary is Volunteer Coordinator at the Wikimedia Foundation. I'm sure he had more pressing matters to attend to.

Let me try to organize the discussion by separating a) a very real general question from b) my hypothetical example. I believe that the discussion of real examples will be beneficial to both.

a) A very real and clear statement was made by an administrator bureaucrat, also a member of the arbitration committee, which can be found here (the quotations are in English): [13]

He quoted the Wikimedia:Non discrimination policy, explaining that that policy did NOT allow them to treat editors differently, based on their [...] medical condition. Wikimedia:Code of Conduct Policy was also quoted.

I believe that "medical condition" includes the whole spectrum of physical and mental illnesses, but please let me know if my interpretation is not correct.

Phil Nash states that in case a registered user is not able to communicate effectively, as it has already happened on en:wiki, they have been persuaded to be adopted by willing mentors.

I consider that a good example of treating editors differently based on their medical condition. This is also similar to the special treatment given inexperienced users, namely through the Adopt-a-User program ([14]) that has a parallel in the Portuguese Wikipedia (please see interlanguage link.)

That procedure also conforms to current non discriminatory legislation in many countries that makes it compulsory to provide ramps for wheelchairs, Braille markings and sound warnings, and special education for those with all sorts of illnesses, both physical and mental. That is, a non discriminatory policy means that you treat people differently based on their medical condition. NOT treating editors differently, based on their medical condition, is considered DISCRIMINATION.

In the Portuguese Wikipedia, as exemplified by the statement of that administrator bureaucrat, and member of the arbitration committee, there is the exact opposite understanding and interpretation, contrary to what non discrimination is. So far, nobody else has contradicted that position which was only disclosed in response to my questioning.

My point is that this state of affairs in the Portuguese Wikipedia cannot be tolerated, condoned and supported by the resources of the Wikimedia Foundation, generously provided by volunteers and donors keen on improving the general knowledge and welfare of humankind and not the misguidance of a group that actively or with their silence have taken over the Portuguese Wikipedia. Swift and drastic measures need to be taken to stop this.

b) My strictly hypothetical case assumed that a [quadraplegic] girl had learned how to use a computer and found out about Wikipedia. After registering as a user she did all sort of trampling. To my question if there would be any administrator willing to block her from editing Wikipedia, three administrators, one of them a bureaucrat and member of the arbitration committee answered YES: [15]

No dissenting opinion has been published, to this date, anywhere on the Portuguese Wikipedia. I have refused to do so for the reasons stated at the conclusions of both part a) and b).

This is in stark contrast with the assumptions and procedures advocated by Phil Nash. First he narrows the case to one in which her physical disability does not impair her mental faculties, that she is aware of what she is doing, and certainly should be after a number of warnings. There's no problem with this scenario since it is added:

"If it's just a case of being unable to communicate effectively, we do have users on en:wiki with similar issues, and have persuaded them to be adopted by willing mentors". Thus a procedure is suggested to prevent errors at the source or have someone at the ready to revert them, without requesting for the user blocking. Admittedly, the corrective actions of such mentor would also avoid the need for those requests to be made and to act on them. I find this a viable and correct approach.

I beg to differ with Phil Nash when he states that "However, the bottom line to me is whether the harm to the encyclopedia (willed or not) outweighs the benefit of having that person editing". It is not difficult to conclude, even without any figures, that this kind of benefits-cost analysis would make any action in favor of the disabled unfeasible, and disability rights laws unactable. The very nature of Wikipedia makes it impossible to produce any harm comparable to the benefit of making its edition available to anyone whose capable of doing it, no matter at what cost in reverts. There's already enough vandalism being done by people supposedly sound of mind and body. It's hard to imagine that the marginal costs of handling the errors of the disabled would put the project in jeopardy. There might even be a way to tap additional resources to cope with such costs.

[...] one of many examples of rampant disrespect for the five pillars, occurring, unchallenged, on a regular basis on the Portuguese Wikipedia. Mobbing is practiced matter of factly, and promoted openly on discussion pages. Just for your information, please be aware that I was already harassed on the Portuguese Wikipedia ([16]) for bringing up this subject on "foundation-l." [...]

Sincerely,

Virgílio A. P. Machado (Vapmachado)

Prof. Virgilio A. P. Machado vam@fct.unl.pt
Engenharia Industrial http://web.archive.org/web/20070824105539/www.ipei.pt/GDEI/
DEMI/FCT/UNL Fax: 351-21-294-8546 or 21-294-8531
Universidade de Portugal or 351-21-295-4461
2829-516 Caparica Tel.: 351-21-294-8542 or 21-294-8567
PORTUGAL or 351-21-294-8300 or 21 294-8500
Ext.112-32
[96-577-3726]
Faculdade de Ciencias e Tecnologia/UNL (FCT/UNL)

(Dr. Machado is Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering at the
School of Sciences and Engineering/UNL of the University of Portugal)


Date: Fri, 5 Jun 2009 14:50
From: Nathan
To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List <foundation-l@lists.wikimedia.org>
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] pt:wiki policies

Virgilio, [...]

It should be noted that most disability access laws refer to the right of access to certain classes of goods and services and employment. Editing Wikipedia would not seem to fall into any of the typically covered categories, even were it under the jurisdiction of such laws. While I'm not an expert on the subject, I'm not aware of any laws that even require access to the Internet, let alone resources or activities accessed through it. So the question of law is really separate; if you want to make a case about access, it needs to be done on other grounds.

In the last discussion it was said by many that the primary role of editors is the contribution and improvement of free content, and the privilege of editing access is provided for that purpose. If we can help people with certain disabilities be productive as editors, we should. If a disabled editor, as any editor, becomes disruptive and impedes the goal of the project (and assistance fails to solve the problem) then that person should be blocked.

[...]

Nathan


To: foundation-l@lists.wikimedia.org
From: "Happy-melon"
Date: Fri, 5 Jun 2009 22:16
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] pt:wiki policies

The Wikimedia wikis are, ultimately, private websites, owned and operated by the Foundation. That the software they run happens to allow millions of users the ability to make changes to said site is ultimately just fortunate coincidence: the ability to edit Wikimedia wikis is a privilege, not a right, and one that can be withdrawn at any time and for any reason. With the usual IANAL [I am not a lawyer] disclaimer, legal non-discrimination mandates have no force here. If the issue were a Wikimedia *employee* being fired or blocked with the additional factor of said disability, the situation would be very different. That is not the case. In this context, we are guided only by our own ethics, and the values and goals of the project.

--HM


Date: Sat, 6 Jun 2009 20:51
From: David Goodman <dgoodmanny@gmail.com>
To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List <foundation-l@lists.wikimedia.org>
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] pt:wiki policies

The key phrase here in basic policy applicable here is "that anybody can edit." Naturally, we can & do interpret it as meaning anybody who is willing to cooperate with the rules and customs of the site. We also by necessity must interpret it as anyone is able to have access to the Internet.

Regardless of the possible lack of legal obligations in present law to accommodate medical conditions (and what country's law would apply here?) -- I think we are morally obliged to, to the extent we can do so without inordinate difficulty. The moral obligation is based on the likelihood that we would want accommodations made for ourselves if we needed them.

David Goodman, Ph.D, M.L.S.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:DGG


To: foundation-l@lists.wikimedia.org
From: "Happy-melon"
Date: Sun, 7 Jun 2009 10:40
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] pt:wiki policies

Yes, that's definitely true. But our ultimate guiding principle is the greater good of the project. "Anyone can edit" should apply to, as you say, anyone who is prepared to work constructively with the project, regardless of any disability (we take great pains, for instance, to make pages *editable*, not just readable, by blind users). However, if a user is unable to cause a net benefit to the project through their contributions, for *whatever* reason, then our obligation then becomes one of minimising any damage caused, often by blocking and banning. IIRC [If I recall correctly] there have been past incidents involving editors with mental illnesses; I can imagine a similar problem resulting from an editor with Tourette's. If a contributor is destructive to the project as a result of physical or mental impairment, our actions shouldn't, IMO [In my opinion], be affected by that impairment (partly because it's difficult or impossible to *verify* such a situation). Attempting to get troublesome editors to accept mentorship, or other similar methods, is *always* better for the project than an outright ban, at least initially; the presence or absence of medical conditions doesn't change that either. But Virgilio, it is perfectly possible, and reasonably common, for communities to decide that the most efficient, and beneficial to the project, way of reacting to certain editors' contributions, is to ask them to exercise their right to leave. Banning is a viable action when a user is consistently and irredeemably unconstructive. To us, *why* they are acting in such a way is ultimately irrelevant.

--HM


Date: Sun, 07 Jun 2009 22:08
To: Vapmachado <vam@fct.unl.pt>
Subject: Copy of your message to DGG: pt:wiki policies
From: Vapmachado <vam@fct.unl.pt>

Dear Dr. Goodman,

I want to personally thank you for the comment you posted on the Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List concerning the matter listed above. You helped restore some of my confidence in my fellow human beings.

Unfortunately, Man continues to be his worst enemy, and although I understand why some people do not share our opinion, it puzzles me that there aren't more in the List willing to stand for a simple moral obligation. I thought the list was about an encyclopedia not a programmers convention.

Would you be so kind as to share with me your advice on these three questions:

1) Should I engage in the debate, and argue in favor of our position and against that of the other two people who have posted?

2) Should I change the topic to draw more interest? Something like: Google, Wikipedia, War and Sex?

[...]

It was a pleasure to have met you, even under these adverse circumstances.

Sincerely,

Virgilio A. P. Machado (Vapmachado)

"I am legally blind"

"The lame leading the blind."

To: foundation-l@lists.wikimedia.org
From: "Happy-melon"
Date: Sun, 7 Jun 2009 10:40
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] pt:wiki policies

[...] we take great pains, for instance, to make pages *editable*, not just readable, by blind users.


GOK god only knows

hello.

I am sure you are not where this message should go but I am also sure that you knot who to get it there. I am legally blind and I ccannot find a "contacht us" link.

I have two concerns. The first is simple. I love lyour printable version,. My conputer talks and is not too good at skipping the stuff I don't want, lke your left hand column. The printable link has stripped off the mechanisms and irrelevancies and leaves me a free field to read you with my JAWS screen reader. I wish you would publicise the way you manage to clean u p the page. Go to the magazine webpage, The Week and look at it as a an over illustrated maze full of irrelevant links. They don't do it on purpose. I think they would probably be willing to offer the printable version. You might want to talk with their bublisher, Henter Joyce, which has a web site to contact them Freedom Scientific / Henter Joyce 1 800 444 4443 while you're at it ask for their demos and have hun. WYNN is for kids and they love it.

My other concern is the Poison Control Centers. They are a reliable source on the dangerousness of various chemicals, etc. [they also identify pills and prescrible treatments for poisonings]They have an extensive database which I suggessst you access and add to articles as a free-standking attachment. I heard the eco-scare of the week -- sodium laureth sulfate causes everything from excema to cancer and homosexuality. It makkes the bubles in shampoos and laundry soaps, some foaming bathoil and other detergents. The Wiki did not addreess the quesstion. I ,ake no otjher concrete suggestions: the poison control centers have the technical expertise and I don't

I Love the Wiki. Never a contributor, no relevant expertise, butmany opinions that might help If I knew how to contact you.

Keep up the good work

Kristine Watkins kwatkins21@nc.rr.com


Having been editing regularly on Wikimedia Meta-Wiki since March 25, 2010, the above message was moved, on August 3, to the Wikimedia Forum with the following note: I added the bold. This message has been on that section since June 1st. 2009:

hello.

I am sure you are not where this message should go but I am also sure that you knot who to get it there. I am legally blind and I ccannot find a "contacht us" link.


On Nov. 27, 2010, almost four months later, while I was blocked from editing, user Castelobranco, an administrator, recent bureaucrat (mandate expired on Nov. 11), and member of the arbitration committee of the Portuguese Wikipedia, posted the following:

This is a message that made me feel strange. Happy to help someway, but, in other hand, worry about not to do much more. Well, I love the wiki, too. Did someone already sent Kristine a response? It's been a long, long time...


Having dated his post, the only visible result of Castelobranco intervention was that, on Dec. 12, MiszaBot, a bot operated by user Misza13, archived that thread (older than 15d) to Wikimedia Forum/Archives/2010-11, without any further action noticeable.

Is this how Wikimedia takes great pains to make pages *editable*, not just readable, by blind users?

VPAT

From the Foundation-l mailing list

Keep out.jpg

McGuire, Jill
Wed Feb 16 17:16:03 UTC 2011

Does Wikimedia have a VPAT for 508 compliance?

Thanks,

Jill McGuire

USOPM/HRS/LTMS/HRMS/TOOLSTECH/QA - Macon, GA | 478.744.2374 |


Christine Moellenberndt
Wed Feb 16 18:07:03 UTC 2011

Answered off-list.

-Christine

---
Christine Moellenberndt
Community Associate
Wikimedia Foundation


Gerard Meijssen
Wed Feb 16 18:40:28 UTC 2011

Hoi,
What IS a VPAT for 508 in the first place?
Thanks,
Gerard


Michel Vuijlsteke
Wed Feb 16 18:42:48 UTC 2011

A Voluntary Product Accessibility Template <http://www.itic.org/index.php?src=gendocs&ref=vpat&category=resources>, or VPAT, is a standardized form developed by the Information Technology Industry Council to show how a software product meets key regulations of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.


Nathan
Wed Feb 16 18:43:32 UTC 2011

See: http://www.section508.gov/

Refers to a plan for compliance with a regulation designed to force federally funded software products/services to be accessible for people with disabilities.


Huib Laurens
Wed Feb 16 18:46:28 UTC 2011

Section 508, an amendment to the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is a federal law mandating that all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities. Technology is deemed to be "accessible" if it can be used as effectively by people with disabilities as by those without. To demonstate that a product or Web service is in compliance with Section 508, the creator completes a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), an "informational tool" that describes exactly how the product or service does or does not meet Section 508 standards. The completed VPAT gets posted on the creator's Web site to provide government officials and consumers with access to the information.

The scope of Section 508 is limited to the federal sector. It includes binding, enforceable standards, as well as compliance reporting requirements and a complaint procedure. Section 508 doesn't apply to the private sector, nor does it impose requirements on the recipients of federal funding. Because the federal government has so much purchasing power, however, it is hoped that Section 508 will encourage the developement of products and Web-based services that meet accessibility standards. To that end, the United Stated Department of Education now requires states funded by the Assistive Technology Act State Grant program (a grant program that supports consumer-driven state projects to improve access to assistive technology <http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/0,289893,sid9_gci914775,00.html> devices and services) to comply with Section 508.


Gerard Meijssen
Wed Feb 16 18:49:27 UTC 2011

Hoi,
Given that Unites States government agencies do use MediaWiki, it is quite a relevant question. Given that we provide such an important service on a worldwide scale, I would be interested in learning the answer to the question. Is that possible ?

In the final analysis we can only achieve our aims well when we achieve highly in this respect.
Thanks,
GerardM


MZMcBride
Wed Feb 16 19:41:55 UTC 2011

> On 2/16/11 9:16 AM, McGuire, Jill wrote:
>> Does Wikimedia have a VPAT for 508 compliance?
> Answered off-list.

What was the answer?

MZMcBride


David Gerard
Wed Feb 16 19:49:07 UTC 2011

On 16 February 2011 19:41, MZMcBride wrote:

>> On 2/16/11 9:16 AM, McGuire, Jill wrote:
>>> Does Wikimedia have a VPAT for 508 compliance?
>> Answered off-list.

> What was the answer?

Or, as probably everyone is wondering by now: what makes this an off-list matter?

- d.


Christine Moellenberndt
Wed Feb 16 20:59:49 UTC 2011

The answer is, to the best of our knowledge, no. But we'd like to improve that.

i took it off-list as it seemed to be a question that was more Media-Wiki centered, and not as much Foundation centered.

-Christine

---
Christine Moellenberndt
Community Associate
Wikimedia Foundation


Pedro Sanchez
Wed Feb 16 22:44:36 UTC 2011

Hmm.. strikes me odd and worries me than Community Associate doesn't seem to differentiate between software "Media-Wiki" (sic), and Foundation/Community issues (Wikimedia).

Opening post was about if Wikimedia (as organization) complies with regulations I don't see what software has to do with it.


Gerard Meijssen
Wed Feb 16 22:51:00 UTC 2011

Hoi,
Eh? When Wikipedia is to comply with this, technically it will be in MediaWiki where such compliance is realised. Also MediaWiki is a Wikimedia Foundation project in its own right.

Many people who read this list, including me, find this a subject that is absolutely on topic. Even stronger, I would like us to test our compliance because it will tell us what we can do to do better. When we say that we want to bring information to all people, we do not mean impaired people are excluded.
Thanks,
GerardM


Casey Brown
Wed Feb 16 22:51:58 UTC 2011

On Wed, Feb 16, 2011 at 5:44 PM, Pedro Sanchez wrote:
> Hmm.. strikes me odd and worries me than Community Associate doesn't seem to differentiate between software "Media-Wiki" (sic), and Foundation/Community issues (Wikimedia).
>
> Opening post was about if Wikimedia (as organization) complies with regulations I don't see what software has to do with it.

There's no need to be mean. I would think that Christine just assumed that he was talking about our product was "MediaWiki", not the content projects. MediaWiki is a piece of software, so it's more likely to be thought of as a "product" than the projects are.

That being said, I do agree with the fact that we should err on the side of responding *on-list* unless there's a very good reason not to. If someone asks a question on the list, it's best to respond on the list so that everyone can see the answer -- sharing wisdom and making sure everyone learns things is good. :-)

Christine probably didn't think the whole list would be interested in it and decided to respond off-list, which is fine... but based on the responses that she received, I'm sure she'll be scared to do that again. =P

--
Casey Brown
Cbrown1023


Nathan
Wed Feb 16 22:52:04 UTC 2011

At some point WMF employees might just stop posting here altogether, to escape the unfounded criticism. The post asks if there is a VPAT, which pertains to the software (it is, seemingly, product specific), not the organization itself. It's therefore not a "community issue" -- accessibility itself might be, but that wasn't the question asked (that might take the form "How does the MediaWiki software accommodate people with disabilities, and what is the opinion of the WMF on making such accommodations?""). The VPAT, from my reading, is a way to help software vendors who want to sell or provide services to the federal government demonstrate compliance with this particular regulation (which applies to federal agencies, not vendors themselves).


Risker
Wed Feb 16 23:01:06 UTC 2011

While I sympathize that people think this issue should be discussed here, it is a direct question to the Wikimedia Foundation from a government official, and it needs to be responded to by the WMF. While the post wound up here (and for that, I will look directly at the WMF for not having a really obvious email address for this type of correspondence), it is clear that it was not intended for discussion by a mailing list full of people who have no knowledge of the answer and are not in a position to provide an authoritative response.

Perhaps someone might want to start a thread, separate to this and with the appropriate subject line, about accessibility generally speaking, but this isn't that thread.

Risker/Anne


Pedro Sanchez
Wed Feb 16 23:23:50 UTC 2011

I apologize then


FT2
Wed Feb 16 23:46:49 UTC 2011

VPAT is a statement by the authors of software, showing how accessibility needs are taken account of in the software. Buyers and users of the software may wish to (or have a duty to) take that into account in their decision whether they will use the software.

WMF might be asked for Mediawiki's VPAT statement, as the developer of the Mediawiki software, by anyone who wants to use Mediawiki and wants to (or needs to) take into account its accessibility standing, either for policy reasons or because they are under some kind of obligation (eg legal requirement) to do so.

The existence of a VPAT might be of general interest (eg on mediawiki-l), but a request or discussion by a specific potential Mediawiki user making an inquiry isn't really a list matter. It's more an administrative inquiry.

As an example, here's Mozilla's VPAT for the Firefox browser:

http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/vpat-3.html and http://www.mozilla.org/access/section508

FT2


Ting Chen
Sun Feb 20 07:51:45 UTC 2011

Since we are not funded by the government and we have no relation what so ever with the US government I don't see what VPAT has any relevance to us. If the US government think MediaWiki doesn't fulfill the condition, they had to use another wiki engine I am afraid.

Greetings
Ting


Ting Chen is Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees


FT2
Sun Feb 20 10:36:35 UTC 2011

Spreading free knowledge implies a good free knowledge infrastructure, including reputable free knowledge tools. We don't need the US govt to use any given software, it pays to make it as widely usable and not block ourselves from any major group who might want to try using Mediawiki.

Not least 1/ the US govt is not the only such body (other groups receiving federal funds?) and 2/ we ourselves have a genuine interest in ensuring we think hard how those with disabilities experience Wikimedia in everyday use, when creating our platform.

FT2


aude
Sun Feb 20 13:09:26 UTC 2011

+1

Free knowledge for everyone is a key part of our mission, and everyone certainly includes the blind and those with other disabilities. And wikipedia is something that supposedly "anyone can edit".

Section 508, widely used beyond government, is a benchmark to allow us to assess how we do in this regard.

Since the US gov already uses mediawiki, know we have some admins that use a screen reader, know mediawiki supports keyboard shortcuts, etc., then I think we do pretty well to meet 508 though an assessment might identify some additional bugs.

I would totally support us doing a VPAT (its voluntary) assessment and have it available on mediawiki wiki.

Katie (@aude)


David Gerard
Sun Feb 20 13:27:53 UTC 2011

Yep. 508 compliance for software is considered simply good practice, even if you don't *have* to apply it.

+1

- d.


Gerard Meijssen
Sun Feb 20 10:55:17 UTC 2011

Hoi,
The United States government uses MediaWiki in several places. When you consider that most of the money donated to the Wikimedia Foundation is given by Americans and, when you consider that complying with a standard for usability is something that is a strategic goal, I do understand your [Ting Chen's] pov but I do not agree.

What we can do is check out to what extend we already comply. Given that we have several visually impaired editors even admins, the quality of our software is not that bad. Understanding what needs to be improved to comply with a standard like VPAT gives us a measurable goal to realise what is a strategic goal.

By inviting the American government to work with us on this, we may even find that given that MediaWiki is Open Source / Free Software the government will do the testing for us.

All in all, I advocate to use the question "to what extend does MediaWiki comply with VPAT" as an opportunity.
Thanks,
GerardM


Ting Chen
Sun Feb 20 13:56:54 UTC 2011

Hello Gerard,

while I totally agree with you about the usability part, what I want to say in my last mail is that there is no need for put the US government into your argumentation for it.

Greetings
Ting


David Gerard
Sun Feb 20 14:18:24 UTC 2011

Government use of MediaWiki is strongly to our advantage, as this may lead to extensions to the software to the advantage of all. Thus, making the software more US government friendly directly assists what we do. Are there other governments with accessibility specifications? If so, we should investigate the feasibility of compliance with those also.

- d.


phoebe ayers
Sun Feb 20 20:40:51 UTC 2011

> Section 508, widely used beyond government, is a benchmark to allow us to assess how we do in this regard. > > Yep. 508 compliance for software is considered simply good practice, even if you don't *have* to apply it.

This is true; for instance, software used at U.S. public universities routinely has to comply with Section 508 as well -- so the potential userbase who might care if MediaWiki is compliant or not is potentially quite large. Of course we don't need to care what the U.S. government in particular thinks, but we should certainly care how usable our software (and by extension the projects) is for disabled people, and answering the VPAT question publicly is a service for many potential MediaWiki users. If there are other similar regulations in other countries, that's relevant too.

-- phoebe

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