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Philosophy of WCAG (thanks Matt)

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 11:33:35 -0400
Message-Id: <a05100307b78b2b4a1a20@[10.0.1.2]>
To: "Matt May" <mcmay@bestkungfu.com>, <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Matt, thanks for this opportunity to diverge because I think we need to
cycle back to an important point about how we operate, and I will include
that below.

At 10:41 AM -0700 2001/7/29, Matt May wrote:
>What the W3C does _not_ have the authority to declare is what people are to
>say and how they should say it.

I'm not sure I entirely agree with this premise.

>It is completely nonsensical, however, to create blanket requirements
>respecting the clarity of a message relative to the number of images
>present, FOG index, or any other ratio.

I do agree with this.

I think what's important to remember here, Matt, is that we're not
actually claiming -any- authority.  All we ultimately ask of people is
that they (a) investigate their designs for certain accessibility
considerations, and (b) provide some sort of claim as to how they
measure up -- if they want to.  That's all we can do, is offer folks
a yardstick by which to measure themselves.

I think also that there is more value in _accountability_ than in
_checkability_.  By this I mean that getting actual statements of
accessibility policy -- which means having one in the first place --
would be a big benefit to "the cause."

For example, requiring a company to state, up front, "This web site
has not been designed to allow access by blind people."  What effect
would that have?  Several:

   (1) It would bring the point home to the execs and others at
       the company -- nearly no company in the US will actually
       WANT to say "we discriminate and don't support people with
       disabilities."  Any web flunkie who put such a statement on
       their site would lose his job.  (Inaccessible sites are
       saying this NOW by the way they code, but they are not required
       to actually face the truth of what they are doing.)

   (2) We'd know who to write to, to protest and boycott.  "Some Blind
       Foundation calls for boycott of Amazon.com" or whatever. ;)

   (3) It could be machine readable and included in search engines.

Getting companies and site operators to realize the HUMAN EFFECT they
are causing through inaccessible web design is vitally important.

If we adopt this principle, then things such as "grade level" become
useful as part of a -disclosure statement- for a site, rather than as
a normative checkpoint saying "you must reach <some value calculated
by formula>."

In other words, not this:

     "X.X  Write to at least 8th grade reading level."

But rather, this:

     "X.X  Clearly identify the reading level of the content."

Because, see, the point of all this is -- as Al recently alluded -- to
get web developers to CHANGE THE WAY THEY THINK ABOUT WEB DEVELOPMENT.

Once you do that, the checklists become a set of reminders and not an
onerous list of "rules."  The way to make that change is to require
people to think about things.  In order to meet the second checkpoint
above, you have to think about your reading level.  In other words,
such a checkpoint requires you to do the necessary analysis and thought
so that -you-, the developer, can reach the right conclusion.

--Kynn

PS:  This is the philosophy I use in my online course in accessible
      web design.  My entire goal is to change my students' perspective;
      I couldn't care less about whether or not they learn WCAG tag
      trivia as long as they get the concepts, and can look up WCAG
      checklists whenever they need to.  The "learning" part of the
      course doesn't happen in the reading assignments or things I tell
      them; it takes place in the hands-on exercises and most importantly
      in the review questions.  http://access.idyllmtn.com/d201/sample/
      for an example.

-- 
Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
Technical Developer Liaison
Reef North America
Accessibility - W3C - Integrator Network
Tel +1 949-567-7006
________________________________________
BUSINESS IS DYNAMIC. TAKE CONTROL.
________________________________________
http://www.reef.com
Received on Monday, 30 July 2001 12:31:16 GMT

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