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Re: Normative or informative?

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Fri, 18 Aug 2000 14:44:56 -0700
Message-Id: <4.2.0.58.20000818143205.00b2ee40@garth.idyllmtn.com>
To: Wendy A Chisholm <wendy@w3.org>
Cc: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
At 02:40 PM 8/18/2000 , Wendy A Chisholm wrote:
>The issues and assumptions from yesterday's telcon:
>1. It is preferable that people only interact with one layer of the document.  We assume that in most cases, the one layer that developers will work with is the technology-specific checkpoints (commonly referred to as "layer 3" in yesterday's call).

I think this is a rather unlikely supposition.  I think that people
will interact with the document as a whole in addition to interacting
with checkpoints.  (E.g., we have a list of checkpoints now, but 
the average web implementor still refers to the whole WCAG
document.)

>2. It is therefore preferable that a person could claim conformance if they have followed the technology-specific checkpoints.

This may be preferable even though it doesn't follow ("therefore")
from your supposition. :)

>3. However, our assumption yesterday was that the technology-specific checkpoints might be updated frequently.  And, if updated frequently they should be informative.

That was one assumption.  I'm not sure how accurate it truly is.
In my opinion, HTML accessibility is "generally understood" as
is CSS accessibility.  As I proposed yesterday, it is preferable
to have HTML/XHTML and CSS accessibility checkpoints be 
normative and have XML and SVG and XSLT checkpoints be informative
(but in the process of BECOMING normative) than it would be to
have NOTHING normative.

In other words, it's wrong to say "because we don't fully understand
SVG accessibility, we can't say anything definitive about HTML and
CSS."

>4. There is concern that informative technology-specific checkpoints would not carry as much weight as we like.  It seems that developers need something normative to claim conformance to.

This is very much true.  I am wary about making non-normative,
"informative" checkpoints and "normative" guidelines which give
no practical value.  I honestly can't see organizations such as
the HTML Writers Guild supporting such a proposal when it comes
up for a vote.  (Note:  I'm not participating here as a HWG
representative, but as an Edapta representative; Marshall is the
true voice of the HWG here.)

Right now people do not claim conformance with the WCAG Techniques.
I think it's essential that conformance be normative as well as
specific.  If the problem is the W3C process (and I -don't- think
it really is), then we may run into the vision that Gregg 
described yesterday -- a time when the W3C's demands on "this
must be stable, normative, etc" mean that people will be forced
to look elsewhere for an accessibility standard.

If we find repeatedly that we want to do something which makes
perfect sense, and yet we're stopped by the W3C process, then the
problem is with the process, not what we want to do.  I don't think
we should pervert the intent and focus of our calling simply because
of W3C paperwork.

Note, though, that Wendy's research seems to indicate that's not
necessarily the case here -- we may be internally over-emphasizing
certain parts of the W3C process in a way that isn't necessary or
appropriate.

>5. The issue with publishing a normative document is how long it takes to update.  We might not have the flexibility we need.

Thanks for the research you did to investigate this.

>We had anticipated that the current Techniques document would be fairly dynamic, yet it hasn't really changed too much or very often (we're just now getting ready to publish a new note).  Therefore, I would like to challenge the assumptions that we were making yesterday.

I agree with your challenge and I think we may have worked ourselves
into a rut that didn't exist before we started going back and forth
over the same ground repeatedly.

>I think that we can make technology-specific checkpoints normative (and therefore stable). I think that we can do this by separating the technology-specific checkpoints from the techniques (informative - code examples, explanations, screen shots, etc).

I wouldn't mind calling techniques "examples" because I think that
the current usage is confusing with the distinctions we're making
here between two different things that have been called "techniques"
before.

-- 
Kynn Bartlett  <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                       http://kynn.com/
Director of Accessibility, Edapta                  http://www.edapta.com/
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain Internet      http://www.idyllmtn.com/
AWARE Center Director                         http://www.awarecenter.org/
Vote for Liz for N. Am. ICANN Nominee!        http://www.khyri.com/icann/
Received on Friday, 18 August 2000 17:58:01 GMT

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