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A PROPOSAL TO SPLIT THE WCAG IN THREE. Please read this. I'm serious.

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 04:30:09 -0700
To: "WAI Guidelines WG" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <LHEGJAOEDCOFFBGFAPKBEEODCIAA.chas@munat.com>
From a previous post:

"If it were up to me, I would break out [navigability] and
[comprehensibility] and make three guidelines: WCAG, WCNG, WCCG, for
Accessibility, Navigability, and Comprehensibility respectively. If we did
this, I expect that WCAG would be slightly smaller, WCNG would be of
moderate size, and WCCG would be as large or larger than the current
guidelines."

I continue:

I don't expect to convince many, but I'm going to state this for the record.
The best we're going to do on the WCAG if we try to include navigability and
comprehension in with accessibility (strict sense meaning ability to "get
to" the data) is half-assed. More likely quarter-assed. It's just too much
for one document.

IF (big IF) we split the documents:

1. We could have the WCAG 2.0 ready to go in a week (and with almost NO
quarrelling over the details -- this stuff is mostly old hat).

2. The Web Content Navigability Guidelines could be done fairly quickly, I'd
imagine. A few months?

3. The Web Content Comprehensibility Guidelines would take a while. At least
a year, I'd think. BUT (big BUT): We could issue a temporary set containing
the comprehensibility checkpoints currently in WCAG 2.0 (including the
dreaded 3.3 and 3.4). They would be without official status (whatever that's
worth) but would be enough to get people thinking about it. We could also
promote them and try to get people thinking more about comprehensibility.

THINK OF THE BENEFITS:

1. We get access out of the way. This would refocus our goal. No longer
would there be the tug of war between access advocates and comprehensibility
advocates.

2. A new, small, fast-working group could be formed to handle the
navigability guidelines. Without the burden of having to figure out
comprehensibility (a much more difficult proposition) or simple access,
these guidelines could be produced quickly.

3. COMPREHENSIBILITY IS NO LONGER ACCESSIBILITY'S UGLY HALF-SISTER, VYING
FOR ATTENTION. This group could morph into the Comprehensibility WG, minus
those people who are more interested in access or navigation. The group
would be focused on ONE goal. Better still, we could PROMOTE this idea more
effectively because comprehensibility is more *comprehensible* when were not
trying to call it accessibility. Finally, we could go out and actively seek
experts on comprehension (and cognitive disabilities) to join the experts
already in this group, bringing in fresh blood and new ideas and
rejuvenating the group. Who knows, maybe without the drag of constant access
vs. comprehensibility wars, the WCCG could be completed in record time.

The only detriments I see are these:

1. It takes longer to get the comprehensibility guidelines out. As I see it,
this delay would be more than compensated for by the MUCH clearer nature of
the WCCG guidelines. And, when users looked to the WCCG, there would be no
doubt about what they were trying to accomplish (e.g., a person who just
wants to ensure access to users with visual disabilities will not look
there). Another mitigating factor would be the temporary stop-gap measure of
an "unofficial" release of "methods to aid comprehensibility while waiting
for the release of the WCCG 2.0."

2. Without the "accessibility" angle, comprehensibility might lose some
leverage. Solution: Define accessibility twice (as we already have, I
think). GENERAL accessibility includes SPECIFIC accessibility, navigability,
and comprehensibility. PUT THIS IN THE INTRODUCTION TO ALL THREE SETS OF
GUIDELINES, thus:

"There are three parts to ensuring an accessible Web site. First, users must
be able to access the site. Second, they must be able to navigate the site,
to find the data they're looking for. Finally, they must be able to
comprehend -- to understand -- the data once they've found it. The W3C
provides three sets of guidelines related to Web site accessibility: the Web
Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the Web Content Navigability
Guidelines (WCNG), and the Web Content Comprehensibility Guidelines (WCCG).
All three sets of guidelines are necessary to ensure accessibility on the
Web."

This gets us out of the "usability" trap. It clarifies (and actually
simplifies) the guidelines. It refocuses the guidelines by allowing each set
to concentrate on one area.

There could be overlap. A checkpoint that affected access and navigability,
for example, could appear in both. The non-normative data could explain how
it affected access in the WCAG version and how it affected navigability in
the WCNG version.

Another option is to reorganize the current guidelines into access,
navigability, and comprehensibility sections, but this is much less
desirable. I envision a significant expansion of the comprehensibility (and,
to a lesser extent, the navigability) portion. This is going to take some
time. If we keep them in one document, we will delay the access portion by
quite some time. Why? Let's get it out of the way. Then let's create a set
of comprehensibility guidelines that will blow the lid off this subject and
will focus everyone's attention on the need to make sites comprehensible to
everyone. (Note to Anne: this puts the needs of people with cognitive
disabilities front and center.)

I ask everyone in this group to think seriously about this idea. WE CAN DO
THIS. IT IS NOT TOO LATE. WCAG 2.0, stripped of nav and comp can sail
through to recommendation status and we can give the remaining two aspects
of accessibility the attention they truly deserve.

Since the current draft is scheduled to go public in the next 48 hours, if
you think that this is worth at least a telecon, please SPEAK NOW.

Chas. Munat
Received on Monday, 20 August 2001 07:27:49 GMT

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