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RE: conformance to functionality classes Re: Proposals: Priority and Conformance schemes

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2001 13:40:17 -0700
To: "Web Content Guidelines" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Charles McCathieNevile wrote:
"It should be clear from the existing WCAG that every checkpoint is helpful
to people, and meeting any checkpoint is a good thing. It should also be
clear that conformance levels represent basic minima rather than ultimate
goals. The ultimate goal is universal accessibility regardless of
disability, and getting to triple-A is at least a good step along that path,
although it may be insufficient. Settling for less is in any case a
compromise between reaching the goal and saving development effort for
something else. But that's what happens in the real world, so we need to
acknowledge it."

Perhaps it should be clear, but (IMO) it isn't clear at all that every
checkpoint is helpful. Even this presumes that readers of the document give
a damn about helping people.

The problem with little conformance icons is that many web developers will
shoot for the icon simply so they can post it on their sites. They don't
really care at all about who is being helped. They care about their own

Suppose we create a conformance scheme similar to the one used by WCAG 1.
Many developers will look at the three levels of conformance, assess at
which point conformance becomes difficult for them, and then select the next
lowest level of conformance. In other words, if there is a checkpoint
required for AA conformance that seems too difficult, they will choose to
meet A only. And since there is no benefit to them (no change in icon) to
meet ANY of the AA checkpoints, they won't bother.

So such a system encourages many developers to conform in discrete chunks.

Of course, many other developers will simply slap an icon on their sites
without making any effort at all to conform to the guidelines. After all,
who is charged with enforcement? What penalty do they risk?

I think that we should rethink the entire idea of conformance. Conformance
is for regulations. We are not a regulatory body. We should not be making
regulations. And to prevent our guidelines from being used as the basis for
regulations, we should make it very clear by their content and structure
that they are wholly unsuitable for regulations.

In other words, we should make them guidelines.

We should leave the task of beating people into making their sites
accessible to government. That is government's job. Instead, we should begin
with the assumption that all of our readers are truly interested in making
their sites as accessible as possible, and we should give them the
*guidance* they need to accomplish this.

Guidelines and regulations are very different. They have different intent,
different content, and a very different structure. By trying to achieve a
little of both, we will end up doing neither. This, to me, is the real issue
confronting this group, and until we meet it head on, we are unlikely to
produce anything resembling a finished product.

Chas. Munat
Received on Sunday, 9 September 2001 16:37:45 UTC

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