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Re: XML and accessibility

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2000 21:44:06 -0500 (EST)
To: Scott Luebking <phoenixl@netcom.com>
cc: nir@nirdagan.com, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.20.0001222138200.26872-100000@tux.w3.org>
Navbars are an interesting case in point.

There are a number of users who would be better served by being able to skip
over, rather than have to work their way through, a navigation bar. These
include people who have cognitive diabilities and people with motor
disabilites as well as blind users. On the other hand, access to the
navigation is of course as important to these users as to everyone else.

I think Nir is much closer to the mark - what is needed is some markup to
identify a navbar. Actually, however, there is such markup in HTML 4 - the
map element. Until we all have good browsers, however, it is helpful to
provide a way of skiiping past this. Accesskey is one strategy that is
provided by HTML but only implemented in some browsers. Another is to provide
a link to "skip navbar" which goes directly past them.

Charles McCN

On Sat, 22 Jan 2000, Scott Luebking wrote:

  Hi, Nir
  The reason I said that the suggestion about extending XHTML is
  simplistic is that there needs to be more research into what problems
  blind people have using web pages.  The issue of navigation bars is
  actually a specific example of a more general problem that blind people
  have in navigating through web pages.  In general, blind people will
  work more efficiently when web pages are organized along lines of the
  importance of semantic information.  In the case of navigation bars,
  navigation bars are of less semantic importance and it would be better
  to put them after the more important information of the dynamically
  generated web page.
  Please remember that the discussion is about dynamically generated web
  pages.  This almost automatically implies that some level of programming
  is involved.
  Since there has been little discussion on what is needed for web pages
  designed for blind users, it is not very easy to conclude how much
  effort is needed in developing them.  Also, having a separate web page
  for blind users might simplify development of web pages for sighted
  users.  So, it might be that a larger, complex problem of developing
  dynamically generated web pages for both blind and sighted user could be
  replaced by two smaller, simpler problems.
  I would agree that the guidelines should stick to principles or axioms.
  The question to be resolved is whether there is the same of set of
  axioms for stored pages as there is for dynamically generated web pages.
  This cannot be answered until there is better understanding about what
  is needed in web pages dynamically generated for blind users in order
  that they can can be both efficient and accurate when using the web
  In terms of dynamic web pages for blind users, it is irrelevant whether
  the HTML was generated from XML, databases or any other data source.
  The more important aspect is that the resulting HTML has the appropriate
  information and structure needed by blind people using the dynamically
  generated web pages in order to be efficient and accurate when using the
  web pages.
  > At 02:45 PM 1/22/00 -0800, Scott Luebking wrote:
  > >I'm sorry to say, but your suggestion of extending XHTML for webbish
  > >constructs is rather simplistic.
  > Yes of course. But I would like to recall that there was a big discussion
  > at some point of how to mark navigation bars exactly for the purpose of 
  > allowing moving them around by the user agent.
  > Simplicity is a virtue, not a drawback. If one wants that a wide 
  > public of content providers will create accessible websites, 
  > one should create simple rules, from the content provider's point of view, 
  > for acheiving it. Returning different documents based on the request
  > variables 
  > has its virtues, but is very demanding from the content provider. Only very
  > large 
  > websites that hire professional programmers can afford that. 
  > Eventually every kid and every housewife will have a website, and we want all 
  > of these websites to be accessible.
  > >
  > >I don't quite understand your comment on it being preferable that WAI
  > >not create guidelines for using given specifications.  It would seem that
  > >the guidelines/techniques do just that, e.g. recommending use of the LABEL
  > >tag, not using TABLE for layout, etc.
  > I think that the Content guidelines should stick to principles or axioms of 
  > accessible design. And that there should be a set of techniques that gives 
  > the "how to do" stuff. These techniques may very well include XSLT stuff.
  > By their nature the techniques are evolving over time while the axioms stay
  > fixed.
  > This is very much how the guidelines are organized now.
  > This is also very good for WAI's work directly. It can evaluate other 
  > W3C proposals against the "WAI axioms".
  > I didn't say WAI shouldn't give these techniques. I said that it shouldn't 
  > be the major and only effort of WAI. The main effort should be in getting the 
  > other W3C recommendations to take into account accessiblity in the first
  > place.
  > When WAI started alt was not a required attribute in <img> in HTML (then
  > HTML3.2), 
  > so it was quite urgent to state that HTML pages without alt in <img> are
  > not accessible.
  > Now by having a better HTML recommendation (HTML4.0), we achieve much more
  > on the alt front than a hundred techniques documents, simply because there
  > are hundereds of more people 
  > who validate their HTML pages without reading WAI documentation at all.
  > Excuse me again for the rather simplistic example. It disregards the fact
  > that writing 
  > the alt text well is also very important; but I hope it is illustrative still.
  > I think we are standing in a begining of a period where lots of proposals
  > of XML
  > applications/modules will be in the air. WAI should be alert to influence 
  > those in time.
  > Regards,
  > Nir.
  > ===================================
  > Nir Dagan
  > Assistant Professor of Economics
  > Brown University 
  > Providence, RI
  > USA

Charles McCathieNevile    mailto:charles@w3.org    phone: +61 (0) 409 134 136
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative                      http://www.w3.org/WAI
21 Mitchell Street, Footscray, VIC 3011,  Australia 
Received on Saturday, 22 January 2000 21:44:14 UTC

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