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Re: text-only versions (was deprecate tables)

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@access.digex.net>
Date: Sun, 23 Aug 1998 10:43:06 -0400 (EDT)
Message-Id: <199808231443.KAA07086@access1.digex.net>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

to follow up on what Charles McCathieNevile said:

> At the moment the WAI guidelines suggest that if you use
> complex java-, script- or table-based layouts you need to
> provide an alternative, text-only version.

[more good stuff]

> So perhaps we should suggest that if you want to use tablebased
> layout it should be your secondary (rather than your primary)
> version - that your front page should be without them,
> providing an equal front door to all users, and then you can
> offer people the choice of visual pages or universal pages.

Is browser-sniffing by the server going to make the above issue
moot, anyway?

Is the "Home Page as front door" idea a myth that we need to help
site builders un-learn?

So, should we say you _must_ make your front door the most
accessible one?

* Browser sniffing:

There is a capability in servers to send different redirect
messages depending on what is in the User-Agent header of
a request to GET a page from the server.  Typical pattern:

If your browser says to GET http://www.yourbusiness.com/
 
	the server returns the latest bells and whistles version.

	http://www.yourbusiness.com/index.html

	the first link on this page says it is for the text-only
	version and links to 

	http://www.yourbusiness.com/index-t.html

If your browser says to GET either index.html or index-t.html,
you get the version you asked for.  If you just open the
yourbusiness site by the URL which asks for the default start
page, you get different results based on what the authors and
maintainers of the server thought about the capabilities of
browsers.

* Home Page?

My friend Christoph Berendes <berendes@access.digex.net> tells me
that he has seen statistical results which indicate that a lot of
people enter web sites from search results and other processes
which drop the visitor into an arbitrary page at the site.  Many
people do not enter by the putative front door.

The safety net of orientation aids needs to work _no matter where
you start_ among the pages that tell the yourbusiness story.

* Tell Them to have a Universal Front Page?

The analogy that comes to my mind here is between new design and
retrofit solutions in public buildings.  Of course it is more
desirable that the front, publicly glamorized entrance "just
work" for people with disabilities and that they not be asked to
enter by some side door.

On the other hand, in many retrofit sitations the only pattern of
accommodation that meets the "readily achievable" test is that at
the foot of the stairs up to the front door there are clear
instructions as to how to get to the wheelchair-usable entry.

In the timeframe when the Page Author guidelines are new, and
will have their greatest impact, we will be facing a lot of
webmasters, authors, and sponsors who feel they have a retrofit
situation.  In that case we will likely get the best response
from them if we can show them a range of existing good examples
which meet the abstract requirements in different ways.  What is
readily achievable at their sites will likely vary from site to
site.

The difference between having a universally usable introduction
to the site as the home page versus as the first (and an
accessible) link off the home page will not make a site
inaccessible.

We do want to help the people who wish to have a 100% universal
site.  On the other hand, we also have to address an audience
that doesn't want to give us much time but needs to be taught the
differences that are critical and will make their site
inaccessible in practice.

As a matter of negotiation tactics, I am more interested in
telling people to make sure that their site guide -- the side
door -- meets "anybrowser" and adaptive-technology standards for
universal usability than that their "Front Page" does.  Among
other things, this lets one raise "Use whole words and phrases"
standards that just won't sell on the front page, under the
current climate of competition in image and style.

If a site is going to invest in a site guide or "how to use this
site" department in their site design, they should be encouraged
to make this department squeaky clean as regards universal
usability.  This is the first place to apply universal access
principles vigorously.  If you have done that, you can be compliant
with link number one from the home page taking you to the site
guide.

[Note: 
I expect a vigorous debate as to how to label that link.  One
candidate is the following:

    <A HREF="./site_guide.html" TITLE="EZ access (site title) orientation">
	<IMG: SRC=(standard little i on blue ground for information)
	      ALT="helpful INFORMATION about (site title)"></A>
:end of Note]

If they really feel they need techniques that are risky from an
access perspective to communicate their message, then they need
to have a plan for universal access and that plan has to work.
This is like a fire escape plan.  If you are going to build a
tall building you have to have built-in capability for getting
people out in case of a fire.  There are guidelines for how to
design fire evacuation capabilities.  There are standard macros
for individual stairwells.  But the fire evacuation safeguards
for a building are designed in the context of that building and
are not the same in all buildings.

Al
Received on Sunday, 23 August 1998 10:48:13 GMT

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