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comments on Guidelines Version 8

From: Chetz Colwell <C.G.Colwell@herts.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 7 Nov 97 14:09:30 GMT
Message-Id: <b087759d0102100373ab@[]>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
I hope it's not too late for making comments on Version 8 of the Unified
Accessibility Guidelines.
But first a few qualifiers: I am relatively new to this area, and to this
type of discussion.  Many of my comments focus on items that could be
'improved' rather on those that are really good and should definitely be
there!  I am aware that the issues I raise may have been discussed
elsewhere, and that I may be thinking about the document at too fine a
grain.  Some of my comments are obviously more relevant to guidelines for
people with a lesser knowledge of HTML than other comments.  Also, I hope I
am not stating the obvious too much.  Please excuse me if the issues I
mention are not quite what is required.

9.1 Date formats
This seems to be more an issue of usability than of accessibility.  While I
think both issues need to be addressed for the Web, this does not seem to
be a prime accessibility issue.  Is this not something that could be solved
by the use of Style Sheets?  Perhaps Section 26 could be extended to
include "International considerations for text", rather than it being the
first guideline encountered in the document.

10.1 Text formatting, Issues, Tags affected
I like the idea of naming the relevant tags in each section.  However, in
this case perhaps they should be listed along with each Issue, rather than
being listed at the end of all the Issues.  This also applies to Section 11
(and others?).

10.1 Text formatting, Testing tips, 2
Simple instructions for not loading images could be provided here.  (I have
spent some time testing web pages and have had problems with clearing
images from the cache once they are there.)  Ideally, we want to make the
process of testing accessibility as easy as possible.

This issue also applies to Section 12 Tables, recommendations for page
authors, 2 (and other sections?) where methods for avoiding alt-text
wrapping could be described.

Perhaps a brief description of browsers such as Lynx and Webspeak could be
provided in another section after Section 4, Definitions and conventions.
This could include relevant URLs.

10.4 Text that changes or moves
This seems to be an issue of usability as well as accessibility.  Jared
Spool, in his book Web Site Usability, found that many people, regardless
of disability, do not like text or images blinking or moving (his
participants tried to scroll them off the screen or cover them with their
hand).  This  guideline may lead page authors to think that blinking text
is OK apart from for people with attention deficit disorder.

11 Lists and outlining, recommendations for user agent designers, 1
Wasn't this previously a recommendation for page authors; to introduce a
list by stating the number of items in it?  While a browser could count the
number of subtopics in a list, could it also count the number of objectives
of a study?  Again, I think this kind of information helps all users, so
perhaps it should still be a recommendation for page authors.

12 Tables, recommendations for AT designers, 1
I'm sure this is just an oversight: users need the ability to navigate by
row and cell, as well as column.

13 Links, recommendations for page authors
While I agree that links should be as meaningful as possible (which again,
helps all users) these examples seem very verbose.
I was recently talking to a page author who had taken this kind of
guideline too literally and had made some links 3 or 4 lines long, because
he thought he should explain exactly where the link led to.  Between us we
found 2 or 3 words that were sufficient.  Shouldn't links be meaningful,
but also be as short as possible?

13.5 Use of graphics decreases cognitive load, Issue
It seems important to mention that the design of effective icons and
buttons is not a trivial task (for example, are the functions of all the
icons used in Microsoft Word immediately intuitive?), and that the design
of graphics to support navigation by people with cognitive disabilities may
be even more difficult. There is much debate about whether images and icons
mean the same thing to all people, even those who have so-called "normal"
cognitive abilities.

Section 14.3 Viewing and interacting with images, Recommendations for
authors, 1.
Appendix A states that alt-text should be simple, but perhaps this should
probably be stated in the guideline itself.  If not, the guideline should
refer to the Appendix.

Section 14.3 Viewing and interacting with images, Recommendations for
authors, 3, paragraph 3.  I like the suggestion that page authors who use
D-links could include an explanation of what it represents, but this may
fit better in Appendix A, Design notes, with a reference to the Appendix in
the guideline.

I hope that now you've got to the end of my comments that you do not think
they are inappropriate or too fussy.


Chetz Colwell
Sensory Disabilities Research Unit
Department of Psychology
University of Hertfordshire
AL10 9AB
Tel: 01707 284630
e-mail: c.g.colwell@herts.ac.uk
Received on Friday, 7 November 1997 09:05:13 UTC

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