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Re: what type of document do we want?

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2001 02:58:01 -0400 (EDT)
To: Jason White <jasonw@ariel.ucs.unimelb.edu.au>
cc: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0104020241050.13628-100000@tux.w3.org>
In fact there is a different issue that Paul seems to have brought to the
fore (again). The question that we keep asking is "should conformance to the
guidelines be testable by machine?". It has been suggested that if something
is only subjectively testable we should not be requiring it. (That is not the
approach taken in WCAG 1, so it becomes, perhaps, an issue for WCAG 2).

My own opinion, and I have considered this often, is that we should recognise
that most judgement is more or less subjective. It seems from all my
experience that the most useful tools are those which gather information and
present it for subjective judgement in the most efficient fashion. And it
seems that most of the things that are critical for accessibility cannot be
done without some subjective judgement. It is next to useless to know simply
that there is some alternative equivalent without knowing that it actually
provides something equivalent. (Normally we just assume that anyone who has
bothered to do something will do it right, but that may not be true).

Likewise, there are not tools that can automatically simplify what I write,
but there are several kinds of software available today that can suggest ways
that might make someting simpler.

I believe that the issue about using the guidelines in a legal context is a
red herring - courts employ judges and lawyers and juries in part because it
is not possible to just mechanically determine how law should work. The
guidelines will in fact work in a legal context, because there is a demand
there to work out what the state of the art, and a reasonable person, and
other such concepts imply for a given case.

It is harder to use these things in a policy designed to ensure that a site
will not fall foul of a legal test - most particularly a policy designed to
require the smallest possible amount of accessibility. Those who are striving
to achieve best practice set the state of the art - the yardstick that a
policy based on non-discrimination, such as the Australian one, will measure
against at the time of any given complaint. Those who just want to do the
minimum will always find it difficult to know if they have done enough,
because the answer for the moment is always no.

I think our first goal should be to work out which things are useful, and how
useful, for end users, and explain why. Without that information we have no
basis for excluding any requirement, or asserting that one is more important
than another, or sytematising our knowledge. (I think we have already done a
lot of this, but we should keep concentrating on it and not be too distracted
on work that really is outside our purview).

Sorry about the longish ramble.



On Sat, 31 Mar 2001, Jason White wrote:
  As Paul has suggested, there is indeed an unresolved question regarding
  precision with which the guidelines should define what does and does not
  constitute compliance with each checkpoint and the role which
  considerations of testing and verification should play in the making of
  that determination.

Charles McCathieNevile    http://www.w3.org/People/Charles  phone: +61 409 134 136
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative     http://www.w3.org/WAI    fax: +1 617 258 5999
Location: 21 Mitchell street FOOTSCRAY Vic 3011, Australia
(or W3C INRIA, Route des Lucioles, BP 93, 06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France)
Received on Monday, 2 April 2001 02:58:11 UTC

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