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Development Cost

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 17:36:13 -0500 (EST)
To: WAI AU Guidelines <w3c-wai-au@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.04.9903081853160.8715-100000@tux.w3.org>
Bruce Roberts and Chuck Oppermann have raised the question of development
cost on this list recently, although it has also been raised in other WAI

The mission of this group is to produce guidelines which describe how
tools can produce content which is accessible, and how the tools
themselves can be accessible to disabled users. (Paraphrased from the

Enforcement of these guidelines and assessment of how much they cost a
particular manufacturer to implement are both beyond the scope of the
group as currently chartered.

There are two reasons why I feel that the cost of implementation should
remain an issue which is beyond the scope of this group.

The first is that the group is meant to solve a single problem - what
needs to be achieved (in terms of functionality offered to the user, which
generally can be achieved in more than one way) for tools to do the two
things required. The result is a wish-list precisely to the extent that
accessibility is an item on a wish-list. If a manufacturer wants to
produce an accessible tool, then we are here to let them know what
functions are needed, and which functions are desirable, in that tool.
Equally, if a consumer wishes to purchase an accessible tool, then they
should be able to use the guidelines to determine whether, or to what
extent a particular tool does the things which are necessary and

The other reason is that it is not the place of this working group to
involve itself in the management of particular tools, which is what would
be required to make decisions based on development costs. If we were to go
down that path, then we would have to look at the available tools, and the
cost of implementing each requirement in each of them, and find the best
match before making a recommendation. In a changing world that is likely
to guarantee we don't ever produce a result.

We could make such a process more efficient, at the possible cost of
overall accessibility improvement, by restricting ourselves to products
produced by w3c members, but it is equally possible that developers are
not going to let each other look carefully into just how their product is
developed, how much it costs, and what they have to spend on it. (On this
point I invite anyone to prove me wrong in sufficient cases to justify a
reconsideration of the charter). Without this level of information then we
are flying blind, and making it up as we go along. As Chuck has repeatedly
pointed out, that is an error the group should avoid.

On the other hand, developers may find a requirement very difficult to
implement. If it is the case that all developers find it difficult to
implement, then it may not hapen for a while. Too bad for those who need
it, and that's that. Alternatively some developers may find it easy to
comply with a given requirement, while others find it difficult. That is
what product differentiation means. Again, who uses which tools is beyond
the scope of this group - we are here to determine what are the important
functionalities of those tools, and how important each of those things is.

Charles McCN

--Charles McCathieNevile            mailto:charles@w3.org
phone: +1 617 258 0992   http://www.w3.org/People/Charles
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative    http://www.w3.org/WAI
MIT/LCS  -  545 Technology sq., Cambridge MA, 02139,  USA
Received on Tuesday, 9 March 1999 17:36:17 UTC

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