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

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 09:03:59 -0400 (EDT)
To: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>
cc: WAI Guidelines WG <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0108200854140.27912-100000@tux.w3.org>
On Mon, 20 Aug 2001, Charles F. Munat wrote:

  Wow, Charles, you make up your mind quickly. Willing to mull it over for a
  day or two?

CMN I fully intend to. But I have pondered this question before in several
  Also, your comments give me pause. Are we designing guidelines or
  regulations here? This is another area that I think has resulted in no end
  of controversy on this list. Everything we do has to be viewed with an eye
  to future regulations, it appears.
This is an important point, and in general I agree with you - if we try to
write too much for suitability in regulations I believe we will fail. (Look
at what happened with Section 508 after we spent so long "ensuring our work
would be useable for 508" if you need a cautionary tale).

I have argued vociferously on this list that we should be writing technical
guidelines and not regulations (and as a corollary that implementation costs
belong to the people who write regulations, not us, as a determining issue
for a requirement).

But I think if we try to split the documents we send the wrong message about
how the technical requirements work to all but the most dedicated readers of
the work. (And it seems clear that there are lots of cases where the work
already isn't very well read - again, look at what is said by the US Access
Board about requirements that are in 508 but supposedly do not appear
anywhere in WCAG, or look around for a while at how people use technical
documents in general).
  Did I miss something, or does Section 508 only apply to AMERICAN web sites
  and then only to government sites? What about all the sites in other
  countries? What about all the sites that aren't government sites?
Actually 508 only applies to afraction of stuff in the US, and in most of the
world the legal requirements end up being something more along the lines of
WCAG conformance, But legal application is itself a huge field. Anyway, the
point is clear and I agree.
  It seems to me that we should be thinking about our audience: people who
  build web sites. They come first.

  Let's fight the legal battles where they need to be fought: in government,
  in the press, in the courts if need be, in people's minds. For the
  guidelines, let's ask "What is the BEST way to organize this data to ensure
  that everything gets the level of detail it deserves?"
Agreed. It happens that I think the best way to organise the data is with
fairly tight linkage. It is probably possible to redraft the currewnt work in
a way that keeps the tight linkage, but splitting it too much introduces a
big coordination overhead, which I think is big enough to outweih the
benefits. It also introduces the risk coming from realities of how people use
this stuff. Together those two things make me very wary of adopting the
  This also gets into what I've been saying about removing advocacy from the
  guidelines. If we are saying that we can't split the guidelines because the
  government might not put all of them into their next set of regulations,
  then aren't we saying that the guidelines are an advocacy tool intended to
  help us sell accessibility to the government?

CMN No, I don't think we are saying that. I think we are saying that we need
to recognise how people understand documents, especially multi-part
documents, and how difficult it is to author them, and decide whether the
costs are greater than the benefits or not.



  The more I think about this, the more questions it raises. I need to get
  some sleep, but I hope we can discuss this more tomorrow. I'll have some
  more questions for you then.

  Chas. Munat
Received on Monday, 20 August 2001 09:04:00 UTC

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