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Accessibility vs. consideration X: how to handle

From: Leonard R. Kasday <kasday@acm.org>
Date: Sat, 30 Dec 2000 16:34:36 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
(this is a revised version of something I mistakenly posted on the er list)

There's been objections to various checkpoints on the basis of various 
types of hardships: e.g. time and diffculty to implement, danger to 
intellectual property, conflict with artistic visions.  What I'll call 
"considerations X"

These are all legitimate concerns.  I do NOT want to ignore them.  But the 
question is: how do we handle them?

Sometimes people have argued that we throw out a checkpoint just because 
some authors have valid objections in some situations.

But if we do that, we're going to have to throw out all the guidelines, 
because there are always some special cases where an author will have a 
plausible objection.  For example, take checkpoint 1.1, provide a text 
equivalent for all non-text information.  A few years ago I wrote Scott 
Adams asking for textual equivalents to his on line Dilbert comics.  He 
refused on intellectual property grounds: he felt it would make it too easy 
for people to make illegal compilations of the dialog.  Similarly, a site 
may want to post information, e.g. a weather forecast, as graphical text, 
without textual equivalents, to foil robotic screenscrapers that steal the 
information and post it elsewhere.  I personally am just as sympathetic to 
these objections,  as I am to some other objections people have raised to 
other checkpoints.

There's objections to the rest of the guidelines as well.  Take guideline 
2, separate content from presentation.  This makes it easier for people who 
want to steal your content and make it look like theirs.  It's like sites 
that put your content in a frame... this would go it one better and style 
your content to really look like it's part of their site.    Or guideline 
3, ease of comphrehension.  Constrains artistic freedom...  James Joyce 
would never have gotten past this guideline.  And advertisers may also 
object: for example, some longwinded advertising copy might be simply 
summarized as: "buy this toilet cleanser and your family will love you".  I 
doubt if the web author would be willing to present the simpler 
statement.  These  objections are similar to the objections to the ban on 
graphical text we discussed a while back.

Or consider Guideline 4, ease of navigation.  I have heard one web designer 
say quite seriously that his organization want you to go bouncing around a 
lot pages to be exposed to the maximum number of impulse buying 
stimuli.  In other words, they have bottom line financial reasons for poor 
navigation (similar strategies are used in supermarkets). Guideline 5, 
device independence... well, as soon as we see gamepad interfaces flying 
users thru 3D interfaces (a la Neuromancer) there may well be resistance to 
the work involved in duplicating the whole thing with 2D discrete 
interface.  For example, if a site has a video game where you fly through 
some obstacles to a goal win a discount... they'd object to providing an 
access key that simply jumps you to the goal. As for Guideline 6, graceful 
degradation: see guideline 5.

You may not be sympathetic to all these reasons for not making a site 
accessible, but I think they have the right to be taken just as seriously 
as considerations X objections to other checkpoints that other people have 
raised on this list.

How do we address these issues?.

One way is to say:

"Throw out this Guideline because there's a consideration X objection to it 
in some circumstances" .

If we do that we throw out all the Guidelines.

So we have to recognize that there's a balance.  But when and how do we do 
that?  Here's some alternatives:

A. Just go on like we're doing and arguing consideration X objections to 
each checkpoint as it comes along, and throw out the checkpoint if the 
objection is--what--serious enough?  affects too many webmasters?  What's 
the criterion?


B. Focus now only on accessibility and return to the consideration X 
problem in a comphrehensive, consistent way later.

For example, we can
1. Just say we only defining accessibility, and not considering 
considerations X (like WCAG 1.0 seems to say)

2. Make a blanket policy allowing violation of checkpoints in cases where 
there are legitimate consideration X concerns
3. Define "qualified" compliance that refers to considerations X
4. Make a detailed catalog of all the hardships that each consideration may 
5. -- your suggestion here --

Actually I had thought we agreed we were going with B, focus on 
accessibility now, considerations X later.  But since that's not what's 
happening I wanted to face this head on.

At a miniumum I hope we can agree to not throw out a checkpoint just 
because there's a considerations X objection to it in some circumstances.

Also, I hope we can focus on the larger issue, not this collection of 
examples I used to make the point.

Leonard R. Kasday, Ph.D.
Institute on Disabilities/UAP and Dept. of Electrical Engineering at Temple 
(215) 204-2247 (voice)                 (800) 750-7428 (TTY)
http://astro.temple.edu/~kasday         mailto:kasday@acm.org

Chair, W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Evaluation and Repair Tools Group

The WAVE web page accessibility evaluation assistant: 
Received on Saturday, 30 December 2000 16:34:54 UTC

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