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Re: Murky ratings

From: Alan J. Flavell <flavell@a5.ph.gla.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 18:13:38 +0100 (BST)
To: Josh Krieger <jkrieger@cast.org>
cc: WAI Markup Guidelines <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.OSF.3.96.980514174456.4333I-100000@a5.ph.gla.ac.uk>
On Thu, 14 May 1998, Josh Krieger wrote:

> In regards to your comment about recommending obsolete solutions. 
> This is not what I'm advocating. I am advocating creating a database 
> of individual guidelines marked with extra information regarding the
> browsers and assistive technologies for which they are relevant. 

Thanks; that was, at any rate for me, a useful clarification of your

As a matter of fact, I composed quite a long reply to you yesterday
based on my understanding of what you had said: you had appeared to be
advocating the writing of guidelines for old documents written to
obsolete versions of HTML, and/or to be viewed by obsolete browser
versions, or by browsers that had been deliberately chosen to be
inappropriate to the needs of the particular reader.  I then decided
that I must have misunderstood your intentions, so I didn't send the
mail, instead I waited to see how the discussion would develop.  I'm
now glad that I waited. 

It's only realistic to make rules that are appropriate for the
browsers that are actually available, rather than for some ideal
browser that has not yet been written and perhaps never will.

But, it seems to me that the more you make the writing of accessible
documents into what many will perceive to be a complex chore, the less
successful your enterprise is going to be across the web as a whole.
Having met face to face so many examples of the - misconceived but
nevertheless genuinely held - "we author for our majority readers, we
cannot afford the time and effort to make alternative pages for a tiny
minority"  attitude, I suggest that you will always be steering an
uncertain course between, on the one hand, a tolerably accessible
world wide web, with handy guidelines that everyone can follow and
could reasonably be expected to follow; and on the other hand a
ghettoized web in which most of the content is totally and utterly
inaccessible to anyone who can't "get with the program", and a small
minority content that fully and completely complies with elaborate and
detailed rules of accessibility legislation but is of no interest to
readers in general.  Please excuse me for putting this in such
polarised terms, but based on what I am seeing and which, I think,
none of us have the power to control, this is what I think the issues

I'll close this quickly because the -GL list is surely the wrong place
for such a wide-ranging rant, but I did feel that I had to express my
concern at the potential for harm if the rule-making goes too far.  
Please can we at least assume that those who have a special need
are playing some part in the deal, by not selecting a browser/version
that is inappropriate to their requirements, that then has to be
compensated by over-elaborate author work-arounds.

I humbly submit that the most effective use of the available good-will
is to convince sceptics that it is in the nature of the web to be
inherently accessible, that their task is to to work with that
strength rather than against it, and that the guidelines are not meant
as a complex edifice of legislation which their business case is sure
to tell them isn't worth the effort, but rather as useful hints to
help them in their task. 

I have been much impressed by the work of CAST, make no mistake
about it.

Best regards
Received on Thursday, 14 May 1998 13:14:23 UTC

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