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RE: WCAG and "undue hardship"

From: Bruce Bailey <bbailey@clark.net>
Date: Tue, 30 May 2000 10:03:17 -0400
To: "Greg Gay" <g.gay@utoronto.ca>, <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <001001bfca3f$cdad4ba0$53fe330a@msde>

I wish you luck.  A JavaScript heavy tele-course out of George Washington
University is making full participation by the staff I support who are blind
impossible.  The site has massive usability problems in general, so support
of sited staff involved in the program is merely very difficult.  I wish
there was an accreditation process for online courses.

The prohibition against JavaScript is appropriately P1 because its use
pretty much make access impossible for some people.  The only possible
exception is when JavaScript is used in an intranet and you have fine
control (including version numbers) over the computer, the operating system,
the browser, and the screen reader.  Is this your setting or do you expect
people to access the system from home?

You are applying the test for "undue hardship" at the wrong place in the
timeline.  We do not allow architects to create buildings without ramps and
then claim that the cost of retrofitting wheelchair access to be too high!

With regard to the supposed obsolescence of Lynx, can you offer a better
"litmus test" for ensuring compatibility with PDA's, Cell Phones, Web TV,
car dashboard browsers, not to mention screen readers?

The first manifestation of JavaScript may predate the WCAG, but where are
the standards for it?  How do you *KNOW* that your JavaScript is formally
valid?  You can't!  This is still the tail wagging the dog.  The issues of
electronic accommodations for the disabled predates both by decades!  The
ADA, the culmination of many years of discussion and civil rights action,
was passed in 1990!  Microsoft Windows '95 was delayed six months because it
was not accessible!  This is OLD news.  When did your software developers
start work on this project?  Was it more than ten years ago?  Was it more
than five years ago?  If not, they have no excuse for having their heads in
the sand!

Yes, mistakes are costly and expensive.  I don't see what choice you have
but to bite the bullet.

Bruce Bailey

> -----Original Message-----
> From: w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org] On
> Behalf Of Greg Gay
> Sent: Monday, May 29, 2000 3:16 PM
> To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org; Wendy Chisholm
> Subject: WCAG and "undue hardship"
> To the GL list for Discussion
> WCAG and “undue hardship”
> We are currently involved in the evaluation of the accessibility of a
> popular online course authoring package, the developers of which have
> taken the initiative to make to products, or courses, created with their
> software, WCAG A compliant. Here in Canada there is a clause in the
> accessibility legislation that protects, in particular, employers who
> are faced with excessive costs to create an accessible work environment.
> Excessive cost is considered an “undue hardship”.
> The the course authoring software uses Javascript  in virtually all of
> its authoring tools. To provide alternatives would mean a complete
> rebuild of the software, and the functionality of the software would be
> affected considerably. In my opinion this rebuild would represent undue
> hardship for this developer. Second, since the vast majority of browsers
> today support Javascript (to whatever extent), and these browsers are
> generally free in an educational setting, is it not acceptable to ask
> that students use such a browser. Do we ask this developer to spend a
> half a million dollars to rebuild their software, or do we ask the few
> lynx users to download Internet Explorer for free? How long do we hang
> onto legacy technologies as a basis for writing accessibility
> guidelines, when those guidelines stunt progress?
> Currently the WCAG lists alternatives for scripts (6.3) as a priority 1
> item. This effectively limits many web developers from making use of the
> functionality Javascript has to offer, and I believe it is unreasonable
> to list script alternatives as a “must do” item. In the case of the
> developer we are working with, they have gone to great lengths to
> improve the accessibility of the course products created with their
> software, but are unable to comply with the A conformance
> recommendations  without rebuilding the underlying structure of there
> product. I believe it is unreasonable to deny this developer a label
> that states they are complying with the WCAG guidelines when there
> product supports accessibility for most of the technologies currently
> available.
> In the next draft of WCAG, item 6.3 should be moved up to a priority 2
> level.
> I would like some guidance on this issue. How do we address the use of
> technology, such as javascript, when that technology has been
> accommodated in the majority of browsers and adaptive technologies, and
> represents a barrier to only a small number of users. These users have
> available to them at no cost, the technology that will eliminate these
> barriers. Can we grant this developer the A conformance label based on
> the “undue hardship” argument? Or, will the next version of the WCAG
> recognize Javascript as standard web technology, and ask for
> alternatives to script as a “should do” item, rather than a “must do”
> item?
> References
Received on Tuesday, 30 May 2000 10:07:29 UTC

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