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RE: Checkpoint 3.3

From: Alan J. Flavell <flavell@a5.ph.gla.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 14 Jul 1999 20:27:07 +0100 (BST)
To: "Neff, Robert" <Robert.Neff@usmint.treas.gov>
cc: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.OSF.4.10.9907141954440.3121-100000@a5.ph.gla.ac.uk>
On Tue, 13 Jul 1999, Neff, Robert wrote:

> rob>it is not there yet across the board! Do you want me to build an online
> catlag using CSS and have customoers come to it and watch it blow up or not
> be able to use it in older browsers - because it has problems degrading
> gracefully, because something was added at the last minute and not checked
> on Netscape 2. 

Excuse me, but I think you're doing a pretty good job of demolishing
your own argument here.  CSS does no harm whatever to Netscape 2,
indeed it's the only available way that I know of applying advanced
presentation suggestions without harming older browsers.

Where it _does_ risk causing harm is in browsers like MSIE3, where the
CSS is misinterpreted and can cause serious damage.  Whether this is
an issue that ought to be allowed to hamper the issue of web
accessibility is something that could be argued over a beer, but in
any formal negotiation I'd say the accessibility has to win.  We
should not pander to those who choose to operate broken software
(CSS support can and should be turned off by the user in MSIE3).

Fortunately, insisting that accessibility has to win does not for a
moment have to rule out visually attractive presentations, for those
browsing situations capable of visually attrative presentations.  But
only by doing this with CSS[1] does one avoid the many accessibility
traps set by the HTML3.2 presentation-oriented HTML extensions, and
the analogous vendor-defined HTML extensions.

[1]strictly speaking, I should say "with stylesheets", but it seems
that CSS is currently the one viable candidate for general use.

> There are people who do not upgrade and they are our
> customers.  Do you want me to provide information to people and have then
> not be able to access it or at least have difficulty? 

On the contrary.  Based on what many who have tried it seem to report
from using CSS, it offers the best way of achieving what you are
asking for.  Of course, those with older browsers get the rather plain
presentation that was designed into their browsers, but that's only to
be expected by those who selected browsers with a rather plain
presentation, no?  (It would look better, for example, on Cello
from Spring 1994.  [smiley])

>  Most web develoeprs are just now understanding HTML 3.2!

And that's precisely the problem!  They would best skip all that
unwanted garbage, and start using the real thing right away.

> Most people
> have no ideas what CSS is.  We have a lot of education to do!

The worrying part, from where I am sitting, is that increasing numbers
of colleagues, after a slow start, are discovering wannabe-WYSIWYG
pseudo-HTML extrusion software, and creating the most appalling
accessibility problems with it, right as we speak.  All of the well
known techniques for avoiding major accessibility problems have been
carefully excluded from this dreadful "authoring" software.  No names,
no packdrill, but I'm sure readers can fill in the blanks for
themselves.  The results look superficially attractive in the display
situation for which they were intended, but move somewhat outside of
that and they are hopeless.

Instead of finding excuses, I want to see that junk ostracised as
quickly as possible, knowing how much better the real thing can work.

Yes, there are problems in exploiting the full range of CSS on a full
range of browsers that purport to implement it but in fact get it
wrong: I won't pretend it's entirely problem free.  But I still say
that's the way to go, and if there are hurdles in the way, let's see
some effort to get the hurdles cleared aside, not to find excuses for
them, please.

best regards
Received on Wednesday, 14 July 1999 15:27:14 GMT

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