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Re: can accessibility be distinguished from usability?

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 21:52:51 -0400 (EDT)
To: Paul Bohman <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>
cc: Matt May <mcmay@bestkungfu.com>, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0104302144070.25573-100000@tux.w3.org>
There are a few ways of sppecifying stuff that come to mind: You can
underspecify - make it short and lean, and assumme people interpret it
correctly - this is risky because people don't. You can write everything into
the specification, but the risk of this is a huge document that people are
frightened to read. This is one approach that is used in making policies. You
can combine these two by chopping out the hard stuff, and this has been done
in some policies, but I think it often amounts to setting lower goals - in
Accessibility this doesn't seem to be our goal.

Another approach - the way I understand the structure of our guidelines,
is similar to the  way that law is done in many countries, and works as

Under-specify. (Well, don't really under-specify, but keep it lean). To make
this work, provide examples and rationales for how to interpret the
specification. This is how I understand the techniques. (In the world of
law-making this  is known by terms like "statute and common law", or
"regulation and precedent").

One of the responsibilities that implies is that when a new question comes up
the working group tries to find an answer, and explain why they got that
answer. (In our charter this is called "working on the techniques document").

This approach is useful because it is widely understood by policy makers, and
because it allows us to do things that lawmakers regularly do - to use words
like "reasonable", because in the body of examples (techniques) we provide
examples of what is and is not reasonable, so people can work out where they

(This doesn't answer all the questions, just adds some thoughts to the



On Mon, 30 Apr 2001, Paul Bohman wrote:

  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)

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, 30 April 2001 21:53:01 UTC

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