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Re: "until user agents?" - revisiting baseline capabilities

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001 09:17:34 -0500 (EST)
To: Lisa Seeman <seeman@netvision.net.il>
cc: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>, Wendy A Chisholm <wendy@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0101230913070.23438-100000@tux.w3.org>
There have been people on the list who have been looking for old machines. I
was able to get support for giving away 486 machines in Vietnam, where they
were considered welcome. And I know there is a group in the US distributing
286 machines (with their own OS and applications).


On Tue, 23 Jan 2001, Lisa Seeman wrote:

  Just from what I "see" - we know people who are still recycling 386 and even 286's. You do sometimes see adverts "old computers wanted" for charities to redistribute, and hear any Pentium is not all that old.
  I am friends with the head of the human rights for disabilities watchdog organization, She has a lot going on this week but I will give her a call next week.

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Wendy A Chisholm <wendy@w3.org>
      To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
      Cc: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>; allan_jm@tsb1.tsbvi.edu <allan_jm@tsb1.tsbvi.edu>; thoeg@get2net.dk <thoeg@get2net.dk>; seeman@netvision.net.il <seeman@netvision.net.il>; Max@w3.org <Max@w3.org>; Jason White <jasonw@ariel.ucs.unimelb.edu.au>; cpl@starlingweb.com <cpl@starlingweb.com>
      Date: Monday, January 22, 2001 11:24 PM
      Subject: "until user agents?" - revisiting baseline capabilities

      Message summary:
      This message grew more the longer I thought about it.  Reading an article about Netscape 6 from WebReview.com [1] inspired me to compile some statistics on browser usage [3].  One of the stickiest WCAG 1.0 issues we have is the "until user agents" clause.  We don't have a clear answer to apply to the WCAG 2.0 working draft yet.  Here's an attempt to gather some information that might help.  I have sent this e-mail specifically to several people on the GL list since I've included a list of questions about usage in people's regions or work environments. Answers to these questions might help us form a clearer picture of the technology that people with disabilities use and if it is significantly different than the rest of the population.

      WebReview published an article last week called, "Why Netscape 6 Woes Are Your Best Friends" [1] by Makiko Itoh.  In it, he discusses some of the bugs in Netscape 6 but also its conformance to W3C standards (DOM Level 1, part of DOM Level 2, CSS1). Many previous Netscape proprietary document objects are no longer supported, e.g. the layer and ilayer objects.  Refer to WebReview's comparison chart (updated 14 January 2001) for more info on CSS1 support [2].

      He says, "Despite the frustrations of having to change the way we work, the strict nature of a browser's adherence to standards makes sense. If there's a certain level of core standards support in all major browsers, it makes our jobs as Web designers and developers much easier, much less time consuming, and more cost effective."

      Netscape 6 is much less forgiving of invalid markup which should hopefully force designers/developers to validate their code.  That push should help accessibility quite a lot.

      Perhaps one of our primary activities should be working to help people worldwide to upgrade to IE5.5 on Windows, IE5 on the Mac, or Netscape 6 on Linux/Unix/Win/Mac.  At least that might help solve some of the baseline capabilities problems.  It's a dream but perhaps not so far off.

      I talked with someone who recycles old computers to give to people with disabilities.  I had assumed that this was his primary business and that people with disabilities were spending money out of their own pockets to buy assistive technology and computers.  Instead, he says most of the people he works with here in Wisconsin (please don't generalize this too much), get money for technology from the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.  Since they often spend $1000 or more for assistive technology they are also getting brand new computers off the shelf.  He receives more offers than he can handle for donations of old computers and turns a lot of people away - the computers are too old and worthless (a 386 with a black and white monitor for example).  He says most of the people he works with, if not all, will be using the computer to communicate (e-mail, web, messaging, etc.).

      I want to know what it is like elsewhere.  What are other people experiencing in their part of the world? Anne (school environment for children with learning disabilities - U.S.), Jim (school environment for children with visual disabilities - U.S.), Claus (Denmark), Lisa (Israel), Max (Japan), and Jason (Australia), Chuck (Canada) - as well as everyone else -

      What is happening to older computers?  Are they being recycled? Upgraded? Trashed?
      Which operating system(s) do you use at work?  In the schools in your region?  Disability user groups in your region?
      a. DOS b. Windows 3.1 or earlier  c. Windows 98/2000/Millenium d. Windows NT
      e. Macintosh 7.1 or earlier  f. Macintosh 8 or later (Macintosh Be, MacOS)
      g. Unix  h. Linux i. other - please specify.

      Which browser(s) do you use at work? In the schools in your region? Disability user groups in your region?
      a. Microsoft IE 3.x or earlier  b. Netscape 3.x or earlier c. MSIE 4.x d. MSIE 5.x  e. Netscape 4.x f. Netscape 6.  g. Mozilla  h. Opera 3.x  i. Opera 4.x  j. Opera 5.x  i. IBM Home Page Reader j. PWWebSpeak  k. Other - please specify.

      Are there particularly agencies in your state or country that help people with disabilities acquire technology?   How often are they able to upgrade?   Are they encouraged to upgrade?   Are they given support to answer questions or to help install new software?

      How different is the technology in inner cities versus rural areas?
      What connection speeds do people typically use?
      Can someone provide information about Russia?  Africa? China? South America? Other European countries? Other U.S. states?

      I collected some data from a variety of sites and published some notes [3].

      One interesting quote I stumbled upon is:
      What browser are they using? "...it doesn't matter. What DOES matter is that there are differing browsers with differing characteristics, and there are LOTS of them already out there. Even if the best "selling" browser changes, the chances of the majority of users converting to that browser within a short period of time are very slim. Even if the percentage of users drops lower, 25% of 276+ million is a respectable figure - around 80 million."

      As of October 2000 Internet.com had several accesses by Microsoft IE  1.x as well as Netscape 1.x. They also report that about 83% of access requests include Javascript support for Javascript 1.2, 1% were for JavaScript less than 1.2, and 15% did not support Javascript or had it turned off (is my interpretation of "Javascript false" although it might mean not supported rather than turned off).

      Most stats show a clear lead of Microsoft over Netscape over other.  however, the breakdowns vary.  An even larger variance is shown just in support for IE5. Note that it is not always clear if they are reporting IE5.x, IE5.0, or other.  So i have included how they report it as well as the date that they reported it.
      31.7% WebSnapShot.com (IE5.0 22 January 2001)
      81% WebSnapShot.com (IE5 20 January 2001 as reported by Browser News)
      32% How Big is the Internet (MSIE5 24 May 2000)
      66% The Counter (MSIE5.x - 20 October 2000)
      73% The Counter (MSIE5 20 January 2001  as reported by Browser News)
      67% My WebSite (MSIE5 20 January 2001 as reported by Browser News)

      I think this info might be useful as we try to tackle the baseline capabilities/until user agents discussions.  I will continue to add to this summary. Please send info and links that you would like included in this summary.  I'll be interested to read people's responses to my questions above.


      [1] http://www.webreview.com/2001/01_19/webauthors/index03.shtml
      [2] http://www.webreview.com/style/css1/charts/mastergrid.shtml
      [3] http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/2001/01/22-stats.html

      wendy a chisholm
      world wide web consortium
      web accessibility initiative
      madison, wi usa
      tel: +1 608 663 6346

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: I-cubed, 110 Victoria Street, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia
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Received on Tuesday, 23 January 2001 09:17:44 UTC

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