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Re: Checkpoint 3.6: Big Hurdle for Double-AA/Triple-AAA Compliance

From: ADAM GUASCH-MELENDEZ <ADAM.GUASCH@EEOC.GOV>
Date: Tue, 06 Jul 1999 10:28:28 -0500
Message-Id: <s781da56.067@EEOC.GOV>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Another similar item:

Well, a bit of background first: I've been lurker for a while, but haven't posted before (I'm about to make up for it with a long post). I'm the webmaster for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Our site has been accessible to text and speech based browsers since it was launched in early 1997, but has not taken advantage of the accessibility options of HTML 4.0, CSS, etc. That's about to change. Over the next few months we're going to redesign the site top-to-bottom, writing new material, etc. We've started by reworking the existing info, and later this week we'll be posting a new version of the site that meets Level A compliance, and also uses user-selectable style sheets to enhance accessibility (I borrowed the idea from Kynn's site, but wrote my own scripts before he released his).

I had planned to meet AA compliance by the first week of August. The proposed accessibility requirements for federal government sites (under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act) specifies AA. The actual requirements will be released February 7, 2000, and compliance will be required by August 7, 2000 - I had hoped to meet that a year early. That's not going to happen. Why not?

From the guidelines:

  3.7 Mark up quotations. Do not use quotation markup for formatting effects such as
        indentation.
              [Priority 2] 
                   For example, in HTML, use the Q and BLOCKQUOTE elements to markup  
                   short and longer quotations, respectively. 

OK, not abusing BLOCKQUOTE makes sense. Using Q doesn't - the major browsers don't support it yet. A short quotation can be marked up as:

     blah blah blah "memorable quote"

which doesn't meet checkpoint 3.7. Or:

    blah blah blah <Q>memorable quote</Q>

which is rendered in most browsers without any quotation marks. This is simply not acceptable in most cases. The third option is:

    blah blah blah <Q>"memorable quote"</Q>

which would be rendered in an HTML 4.0 compliant browser as having two sets of quotation marks. Also not acceptable.

So, my choice is between broken rendering or non-compliance. For now, it's non-compliance. I had hoped that by achieving AA compliance, EEOC's web site could serve as an example to other agencies that it's possible, and not terribly difficult, to provide an accessible site. If we can do it, with a technical staff of one (yes, it's just me), then anyone can. Unfortunately, we can't. In my personal opinion (not speaking for EEOC), the guidelines are broken.

The result? For now, although I will continue to improve the accessibility of the EEOC site, AA compliance is out. EEOC speaking out in support of the WAI guidelines (I couldn't guarantee it, but we probably would have had a public announcement, press release, etc.) is out. And 13 months from now, all government agencies may be required to choose between broken rendering of their official documents or non-compliance with federal law.

Is anybody working on version 1.1 of the guidelines?

Adam Guasch-Melendez
EEOC
Received on Tuesday, 6 July 1999 10:28:26 GMT

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