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Re: Accessibility is for everyone (was : Use of headers and summary attributes )

From: Charles McCathieNevile <chaals@opera.com>
Date: Fri, 04 May 2007 17:47:22 +0200
To: "Philip Taylor (Webmaster)" <P.Taylor@rhul.ac.uk>, "HTML WG" <public-html@w3.org>
Cc: "Denis Boudreau (WebConforme)" <dboudreau@webconforme.com>
Message-ID: <op.trs7g8vxwxe0ny@widsith.local>

Accessibility is a fundamental requirement at W3C. 

One of the reasons I am happy to see HTML being developed here again (at last) is that it gives us access to the review of people with a lot of experience in practical deployment of accessibility, as well as a mechanism that clearly ensures this is taken into account. Not that I distrust Ian's management of issues in WHATWG, but my experience suggests that W3C groups get a better-informed accessibility review.

Accessibility has to work in the real world. What does this mean? In 1998/9, many people said it was unrealistic to expect people to use the alt attribute, and therefore we should forget it. While experience shows there are stil plenty of people who don't care enough to get it right, showing that it is important and how to use it will lead to a lot more people making use of it and therefore improving the accessibility of the web. Perfection would be wonderful, but given a world where barriers appear all through a normal day, preventing people from participating in life as we understand it, improvements are great even when they are partial.

This is a complex area, with a lot of competing requirements (what suits a blind engineer is almost diametrically opposed to what suits a dyslexic engineer, even before we broaden the application to real humans ;) ), so some creative thinking is often required before we determine a solution that satisfies what appear at first to be contradictory requirements. It has turned out, in many cases, that a good solution can be found. As always, [cue interjection from M Glazman ;) ] authoring tools of various kinds have a critical role to play here. Most people don't know much about accessibility, and while they are no more opposed to it than they are opposed to other people being able being able to hand-edit web applications, they are simply trying to put something online and if their tools don't solve the niggling little problems like interoperability and accessibility, they will just do as much as they have time for and leave it at that.

Anyone who doesn't know what WAI does might like to think about how widely known and translated the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are as an indication of whether this stuff is actually important. Like any other specification, the application is far from perfect, but if you want to contribute to HTML you should either understand something about accessibility or realise that accessibility is one very important part of the modern web and make sure the group is getting review and input from people who do understand it, and taking that into account.

</rant>

cheers

Chaals
Received on Friday, 4 May 2007 15:48:11 GMT

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