W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > May 2007

Re: "Pave The Cowpaths" Design Principle

From: Henri Sivonen <hsivonen@iki.fi>
Date: Sat, 12 May 2007 14:54:42 +0300
Message-Id: <753CB6C1-25A2-4C93-85DB-92B615E3DF9C@iki.fi>
Cc: "'Laura Carlson'" <laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com>, <www-html@w3.org>, <public-html@w3.org>, "'Roger Johansson'" <roger@456bereastreet.com>, <lachlan.hunt@lachy.id.au>
To: John Foliot <foliot@wats.ca>

On May 12, 2007, at 02:34, John Foliot wrote:

> Semantics are critical to web accessibility, and promoting a vision  
> that
> advocates, "We are against semantics for the sake of  
> semantics." [Lachlan
> Hunt: http://tinyurl.com/ys7lbo] clearly illustrates how deep this  
> divide
> is.

It really doesn't help to say that "semantics are critical to Web  
accessibility". Instead, what would help is figuring out on a per- 
markup feature basis if a given semantic feature serves a realistic  
(existing or *realistically* anticipated) use case in AT  
implementations. Moreover, when weighing explicit semantics vs.  
heuristics in AT, one should assess the realistic net effects  
considering the incentives to authors.

For example, it is more reasonable to require AT to walk the table  
model up and to the left to find the header cell for a given data  
cell by *default* than to expect authors to use id/headers in the  
simple cases. There are few AT vendors and they have the capability  
to hire developers who can write code that walks the table model  
instead of merely calling getElementById(). OTOH, it is much harder  
to badger countless authors to produce certain kind of attributes and  
do it correctly. Therefore, making the simple cases Just Work with  
less author involvement is more likely to lead to a net improvement  
of accessibility than insisting on educating authors about more  
complex markup features.

Frankly, I think that an axiomatic "semantics are critical to Web  
accessibility" line risks causing specific pragmatic accessibility  
concerns to be taken less seriously (compare with crying wolf).

P.S. Yeah, the above may require changes to AT, but I find it weird  
that some accessibility advocates (perhaps not you) seem to have an  
implied premise that AT cannot improve in response to HTML 5 but e.g.  
authoring tools can.

-- 
Henri Sivonen
hsivonen@iki.fi
http://hsivonen.iki.fi/
Received on Saturday, 12 May 2007 11:55:01 UTC

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