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RE: Agenda

From: Jason White <jasonw@ariel.ucs.unimelb.edu.au>
Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2001 16:54:26 +1000
Message-ID: <15298.40738.115837.774570@gargle.gargle.HOWL>
To: Web Content Guidelines <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Cynthia Shelly writes:
 > I think it will have an impact on conformance more than the guidelines themselves.  (IMHO) we need to give authors the ability to say "I did this on purpose, and here's why I think I had to".
I think it depends crucially on the extent to which the conformance
scheme is regarded as a reporting mechanism. Taking Cynthia's example,
the person who values distracting advertising more highly than
ensuring that the remaining content can be accessed by individuals who
are likely to be distracted, could simply not claim conformance to the
checkpoint requiring that distractions be avoided. This would be an
accurate claim in that it would properly reflect the decision which
had been taken regarding the particular checkpoint.

If, however, one treats the conformance scheme as providing for more
than a report of what access measures have been implemented, for
example by attaching moral and/or legal significance to it, then
Cynthia's example does become a problem. In law there is often a
balance that needs to be achieved, by taking account of such concepts
as "unjustifiable hardship" (to use the Australian term). It has often
been argued that such notions lie in the realm of policy and that (as
indicated in the consensus statements) our guidelines, as a technical
Recommendation, should avoid entering into the policy domain.

One solution might be to state explicitly, though this would have to
be carefully expressed, that there may be legitimate reasons not to
implement all of the checkpoints that could be applied to particular
content. Cynthia's example is one such case. Another example, raised
initially by me if I recall correctly, is that of a legal data base
containing the full text of court decisions (both historical and
current). Since the purpose of the web site is to provide the full
text of the judgments, and to do so accurately, it would be contrary
to its raison d'etre were the designer to alter the documents by
applying what is now checkpoint 3.3. The same could be said with
respect to collections of literature, for example.

There are two ways of addressing such problems. The first is to modify
the checkpoints themselves so that they take account of any exceptions
which the working group regards as legitimate. The second is to leave
the checkpoints unqualified, but to make it clear that there may be
legitimate reasons why a developer might decide not to comply with all
of the checkpoints that are applicable to the content which he or she
is designing. The advantage of the former approach is that it confines
the range of reasons and circumstances in which non-conformance to
given checkpoints is permitted, by defining explicit exceptions to the
general requirements, thereby allowing content that would otherwise be
regarded as non-compliant, to conform. The benefit of the latter
approach is that it offers a more accurate report of what has and has
not been implemented.

For example, a user might decide (based on software that would read
RDF-based conformance claims) to filter out all sites containing
distractions. Now, for the sake of the argument, if the checkpoint
requiring avoidance of distractions were qualified so that certain
distracting sites (such as those which Cynthia envisages) were
actually treated as complying with the checkpoint due to
countervailing considerations unrelated to accessibility (i.e.,
monetary ones), then the value of the conformance claim as the basis
of a filtering or classification mechanism would be lost. Sites
containing "dsitractions" would be labeled in effect as
non-distracting, due to the exception written into the checkpoint.

Thus there are arguments for and against both approaches.
Received on Tuesday, 9 October 2001 02:54:37 UTC

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