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Scope of WCAG guidelines

From: Christopher Chamber <christopher@gem-hs.org>
Date: Wed, 3 Nov 2004 09:23:17 +0000
Message-ID: <1099473796.4188a3850c879@webmail.hqhost.net>
To: public-comments-wcag20@w3.org

In a discussion in the Dutch web development newsgroup 
<news:nl.internet.www.ontwerp> concerning web accessibility, Yvette P. 
Hoitink invited me to share my thoughts with the WCAG group through this 
public comment.

The discussion I refer to dealt with the scope of WCAG guidelines. 
Yvette pointed out that the role of priority 3 guidelines was subject to 
discussion: should they be seen as specifications, be it hard-to-reach, 
or is it better to present them as 'best practices' to inspire web 
authors and developers to follow?

Let me first emphasize that I see and support the role of the W3C to 
ensure that the web will become more accessible to users with physical 
or cognitive disabilities. However, I think there are topics that are 
out of the reach of the W3C. Writing style, grammar, punctuation and 
possibly also glossaries are subjects that extent well beyond the web, 
covering also print, advertising, television and radio broadcasting.

I would argue that addressing these topics should be left to other 
(national?) authorities. The WCAG guidelines should refer to established 
sources of information if necessary. For instance, concerning writing 
for the web, the guidelines could very well refer to the Yale Web Style 
Guide (or even writing styleguides from the publishing industry) instead 
of formulating a series of specifications itself. Or, concerning the 
risks of fast changing dynamic content for epilepsy patients: refer to 
known information from the television and motion picture industry. 
Guidelines that govern accessibility for television can --generally-- 
very well be applied to the web.

The WCAG should focus on issues that are inalienably tied to the nature 
of the web, such as feedforward and feedback in navigation, grouping of 
navigational elements, alternative accessible content for scripts and 
plug-ins used etcetera. The current guidelines de a good job in this 
respect, but could use a screening on the focus I described before.

I think this approach would catch two birds in one stroke: the 
guidelines that are issued will be more applicable to the nature of the 
web, and the W3C would position itself alongside existing authorities 
that perform the same role for other media, thus emphasizing the place 
the web should take: it is nothing more than a new medium, that can 
learn and benefit from insights that are commonplace in adjacent media 
(television, print).


-----------------------
Christopher Chamber
http://gem-hs.org/c.html
Received on Wednesday, 3 November 2004 09:23:41 GMT

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