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what type of document do we want?

From: Paul Bohman <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2001 14:23:38 -0700
Message-ID: <038901c0b95f$af8514e0$20117b81@paul>
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
One of the action items from the conference call was to designate certain
checkpoints as either subjective or objective. As I've done a little bit of
mental categorization, I've come to realize that in some cases there are
aspects of the same checkpoints that have elements that could fall on both
sides. I'll give a couple of examples here:

1.1 Provide a text equivalent for all non-text content.

Objective Criteria:
        The text equivalent is present.

Subjective Criteria:
   The text equivalent:
        Communicates the same information as the non-text content.
        Serves the same function as the non-text content.

1.3 Synchronize a description of the essential visual information in
multimedia presentations.

Objective Criteria:
       The auditory description is synchronized with the audio track of the

Subjective Criteria:
       The auditory description occurs at appropriate moments (e.g. pauses)
in the audio track

My analysis:
I'm not sure whether the dual nature of some of the checkpoints is good or
bad. At the moment I'm inclined to think that it might be a good thing for
the WCAG to openly "admit" that some criteria cannot be gauged except by
exercising some sort of value judgment.

On the other hand, I really hope that we can eventually end up with a list
of checkpoints and supporting documents which can be used by policy-making
groups. Usually this means that the documents produced have to provide
clear-cut criteria by which to gauge compliance.

But maybe it isn't such a bad thing to construct a document that has a
little built-in "wiggle room" as long as the document defines the terms and
the concepts clearly. Do we want a document that prescribes a "best
practices" model, or do we want one that can stand up in a court of law? I
think that's a fundamental question.

To pursue the thought of a legal-document-approach:
Can a person with a cognitive disability ever successfully litigate a
company because their web site was not "worded clearly and simply." I don't
know. Probably not, at least not from the evidence of the end result alone
(e.g. the web site). Still, such a legal case may be won on other grounds.

For example, it might be proven that the company had no disability access
plan at all, for people with any type of disability. Or if they did have a
plan that wasn't followed, that could open the door for litigation (e.g. if
the company had a policy saying that all documents on the web should be
reviewed by a team of technical writers, and this procedure was not being
followed in practice). I think that creative lawyers could find a way to win
their case.

Of course, the real intent of the document is not to provide an excuse for
more litigation. The real intent of the document is to make the web more
accessible for people with disabilities. The closer we stay to the real
purpose, the fuzzier some of the checkpoints become. The closer we come to a
legal document, the more items we have to throw out.

Again, there is a fundamental question here: what type of document do we

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 Friday, 30 March 2001 16:23:07 UTC

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