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Re: A Fatal Flaw and Other Problems

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 13:02:37 -0500 (EST)
To: eric hansen <ehansen@ets.org>
cc: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.04.9812161848270.27385-100000@tux.w3.org>
Comments interspersed - look for CMN:: and EH::
Please note that these comments represent my response as an individual
member of the group, and were written by me alone. In particular they do
not represent an official position of either the group, the chair, or the w3c.

On Wed, 16 Dec 1998, eric hansen wrote:

  Note that each priority has two aspects, (1) impact (2) and imperative for 


The imperative for use is directly related to the impact. If the
impact of failure to solve the problem is to make access impossible for
some group of users, then the imperative is priority 1. If the impact is
merely that acessibility is not omptimised, then the imperative is
priority 3. If the impact is that accessibility changes from possible but
difficult to possible with about the same degree of difficulty as other
users experience, then it is priority 2. I agree that there is a judgement
call between priority 2 and 3.

On the other hand, these definitions are extremely rigorous in their
defiinitions of impact, and during the lifetime of the working group have,
I submit, become more rigorous and more rigorously applied.


  Section 2.C. An Example From the Document
  I believe that this flaw is already causing significant problems.
  For example, consider guideline A.8 (Ensure tables have necessary markupț) 
  is listed as a priority 1 guideline but a note says "[Editor: no P1 
  techniques here.]." In the A.8 section of the document there is a note 
  asking "Should this be Pri 1?"


My interpretation (this is a personal interpretation) is that there is an
open issue as to whether tables make documents completely inaccessible or
merely difficult to access. The issues have been covered in the archived
mailing list (http://lists.w3.org/Archive/public/w3c-wai-gl). It is also a
matter of what is, within a group context, often referred to as a
'religious issue'. What this means is that there is a very strong feeling
that tables should not be used for layout. This is a genuine bias in the
group. However, I think an examination of the treatment of this issue
would show that it has in fact been handled in such a way as to neutralise
the effect of individual bias on the outcome. (Remember, the Working Draft
is just that.)

  Section 3.A. Possible Bias
  The foregoing example leads to another major problem, i.e., that the 
  document may be biased against addressing issues that cannot be solved 
  inexpensively through page markup. This bias, if correct, is significant 
  because it appears to have led to other problems that further threaten the 
  validity of the document.


The only evidence presented is that the document states (as an exercise
rightly identified as being in part motivated by a desire to 'sell the
product') is the statement that accessible design should not increase

Actually, it is true that this is not always the case. Specifically, the
costs are likely to be noticeably higher in sites which use a high degree
of video and audio content, and provide very high quality accessibility.
However, noticeable and significant are different things. In general the
statement is true.

  Consider, for example, the issue of "language" that I have raised 
  repeatedly. Technique B.3 now addresses the issue partially, but the 
  technique is relegated to a priority 2 level. Is it possible that the issue 
  is really a high impact issue (level 1) but that the expense involved in 
  addressing it the caused it to have very low imperative for use (level 3) 
  in the eyes of the working group, so a compromise was reached to give it a 
  level 2 priority?
Of course it is possible. However it is not the case. Again, the archives
contain discussion.

  I have suggested many other issues that could be addressed in the 
  guidelines (e.g., language, cultural, sensitivity, legal, economic, 
  marketing, etc.), but, except for partial treatment of the language issue, 
  to best of my knowledge, the other suggestions have been ignored. Is it 
  possible that the working group could not see a way to address the issues 
  cheaply via page markup and that, therefore, they simply chose to act as 
  though the accessibility problems do not exist?

This is a slightly thornier issue. The scope of the guidelines is to
address issues which effect access to material, specifically by people
with disabilities, and specifically in ways which can be addressed by
authors. Again I refer you to the Archive for discussion - there are
topics which have been addressed by the group. There are other topics
which are addressed by other areas of W3C activity, and are outside the
scope of the Guidelines. For further information I refer you to the
working group home page [http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/] and to the charter of
the group [http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/charter.html]

  #2. Affirm the existence of other important Web accessibility problems even 
  if you don't plan to provide specific guidelines or techniques for 
  addressing them.

This is implicit in the Guidelines. Things for which there are no
solutions are things we suggest must/should/may be avoided, or at the very
least an accessible alternative provided (which is regarded as a poor
solution but better than none at all)

I think that points 3 and 5 are already addressed in the document, and as
I have stated above I think that point 4 is based on unsound assumptions,
which means that the conclusions drawn are inaccurate.


  #6. Describe the qualifications of the individuals or group that produced 
  the ratings. (Note: I believe that failure to do any of #1 through #5 
  places an excessive burden -- probably an impossible burden -- upon the 
  expertise and authority of the people making the judgements. I don't think 
  that it is fair to expect anyone to shoulder that burden.) How were people 
  with disabilities represented among those developing the ratings? 

One of the greatest problems with a voluntary activity, and the Working
group is largely that, is not being able to force people to take part.
Therefore we have had less input from some communities than we may have
liked. Hopefully this will be addressed by comprehensive review from
a wider range of groups than those who have found time to assist in the
difficult and lengthy task of creating the document and its various
working drafts.

The qualifications of the people who produced the document require a
little searching. It seems to me that they are outside the scope of the
document, although perhaps they are information that should be kept by the
group. In any case there are within the group people with a range of
experiences and backgrounds. While the group is (of course) not perfect, I
think that its collective expertise is both deep and broad.

Charles McCathieNevile
Received on Thursday, 17 December 1998 13:02:40 UTC

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