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Re: can accessibility be distinguished from usability?

From: Paul Bohman <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>
Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 10:11:44 -0600
Message-ID: <005f01c0d190$4049ad40$20117b81@paul>
To: "Charles McCathieNevile" <charles@w3.org>, "Matt May" <mcmay@bestkungfu.com>
Cc: "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
The point that was made here is an important one:

-- Original Message --
> I agree that we are not (and are not qualified for) setting policy, let
> international policy. We are providing information about what is required
> ensure accessibility.

The WAI is not a policy making group in the same sense as a government. I
see the role of the WAI as a group that defines accessibility but that does
not define compliance per se. We don't have to draw any lines in the sand
such as "6th grade reading level" or anything similar to that. Each
organization (whether it be a government, a company, a university or
anything else) needs to determine where the lines are to be drawn for their
particular circumstances. The WAI can make more general statements
("guidelines" rather than "policies"), but I would be reluctant to try to
make the document sound more legal than it's supposed to.

Of course, the dilemma is that it is difficult to validate or verify any
sort of "compliance" to a document that is written to be very general. I
also realize that some countries are using the WAI guidelines as their legal
standards. I don't have a well-thought-out solution at this point, but I
just wanted to stress the fact that the WAI is not making laws. The WAI is
making guidelines that inform lawmakers.

Yes, we want to be as specific as possible, and we want to create a document
that can lead to validation criteria, but I think we have to use language
that allows the policy-makers to set some of the criteria (e.g. appropriate
reading level, or other issues that require a somewhat arbitrary standard to
be defined). Perhaps we can create a separate document just for lawmakers:
"How to use the WAI guidelines to set Web accessibility policies." In such a
document, we could describe how to draw the lines, and we could suggest
possible ways and places in which this could be done, but we would leave it
up to the policy-makers to actually draw the line.

Paul Bohman
Technology Coordinator
WebAIM: Web Accessibility in Mind (www.webaim.org)
Center for Persons with Disabilities (www.cpd.usu.edu)
Utah State University (www.usu.edu)
Received on Monday, 30 April 2001 12:10:36 UTC

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