W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-gl@w3.org > April to June 2001

Re: can accessibility be distinguished from usability?

From: Matt May <mcmay@bestkungfu.com>
Date: Sat, 28 Apr 2001 08:48:08 -0700
Message-ID: <021f01c0cffa$aee83100$6601a8c0@sttln1.wa.home.com>
To: "William Loughborough" <love26@gorge.net>
Cc: "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

----- Original Message -----
From: "William Loughborough" <love26@gorge.net>
> The idea isn't to "satisfy the specification" - we are not making
> *requirements* but *guidelines*, i.e. not some ISO standard that enables
> one to measure the steepness of a ramp but *recommendations* we have
> discovered/tested/espoused that make the Web more accessible, in
> for people who are, or will certainly become, increasingly less able to
> acquire information from this wonderful network.

If we're making guidelines in a friendly-neighbor sense, we can be as
prosaic as we'd like to communicate the message.
The concern I've been trying to express is that in the cognitive realm, our
reach is exceeding our grasp. I am not convinced that many of the techniques
being suggested for the cognitively disabled can be applied widely enough to
all the forms of content that exist out there such that we can create a
recommendation that won't be commonly ignored, misused, or used as an excuse
not to satisfy the rest of the guidelines.

> If we recommend that stuff be clear/simple/illustrated/+ and give examples
> and techniques for doing so, we will have contributed to a better WWW and
> if we move away from the idea of a Semantic Web towards a Pedantic Web we
> all suffer, including our clients. We need not fear that our
> are too troublesome because the regulators will pick/choose among them
> anyway. At the final level there will be some "rule of law" process in
> which our part is more "expert witness" than "police".

I'm going to try to deconstruct things for a second.
When WCAG 1 was created, the WAI went out via education and outreach (which,
if I have it right, you're a member of) to approach content providers and
governmental organizations. One of these groups, the Access Board, took the
WCAG checkpoints and tried to divine their intent in the formation of
Section 508, and left out a lot of things this working group thought were
valuable. It seems like you're saying we should be putting out all of our
knowledge as policy, whether or not it's followed in full. All we differ
upon, then, is the format in which we present that knowledge.

Now, where we are no more than expert witnesses to government (except,
perhaps, as lawmakers in absentia), we are policing web developers through
the compliance system, and that's where I see a more essential need to
educate than mandate. We cannot say we know how all forms of content are
best communicated in the web medium. What we do know is that there are
people who have this set/these sets of problems, and these practices may
help some of them. Insofar as a number of them are contradictory (e.g.,
multimedia for discoverability/distractability), what we have to do is
transfer knowledge to the developers so that they can do their best, not
frustrate them with that contradiction.

> Incidentally I read Godel/Einstein and listen to Bach/Ellington and look
> Vermeer/Picasso even though my "IQ" in their matters is negligible - it
> be that our goals are not to regulate but to enable and if we love one
> another enough we can *recommend* stuff that might help in said

I agree completely. But, I should add, I think that it's as important to
enable the content provider to produce accessible content as it is to enable
any recipient to receive it.

Received on Saturday, 28 April 2001 11:54:00 UTC

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