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Re: Normative and Non-Normative - Why?

From: Jason White <jasonw@ariel.ucs.unimelb.edu.au>
Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 12:25:24 +1000 (EST)
To: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.SOL.4.10.10110161207090.8351-100000@ariel.ucs.unimelb.edu.au>

On Tue, 16 Oct 2001, [iso-8859-1] Graham Oliver wrote:

> Before I become assimilated <grin> would someone
> please explain to me why the huge emphasis on whether
> something is 'normative' or 'non-normative'.

WCAG 2.0 is intended to become, as WCAG 1.0 now is, a W3C technical
Recommendation. This has a number of implications, the most important of
which, for present purposes, is that individuals and organizations will
seek to conform to the standard, and wish to claim conformance. In order
to conform, and to determine whether one has conformed, it is necessary to
know what parts or aspects of the document count for purposes of
conformance--that is, which aspects of the document are normative and need
to be followed, and which aspects, by contrast, are provided for
informational purposes but do not set forth requirements which need to be
implemented in order to conform.

One of the central criticisms which has been directed against WCAG 1.0 is
its lack of precision as to what is normative and what is not. This has
given rise to questions regarding whether, for instance, examples in WCAG
1.0 are meant to be normative, or whether one should instead treat the
principles being expounded as normative, and the examples as
clarifications which may be revealing in themselves but need not be
followed in order to conform with the checkpoint. Similar concerns have
been raised with respect to definitions, and other explanatory material in
WCAG 1.0.

Thus in WCAG 2.0 it was decided to avoid these problems by clarifying
exactly which parts of the document were and were not normative. Also,
non-normative material can reside outside the guidelines proper, in
techniques documents and other complementary materials, which (as they are
not part of a W3C Recommendation) can be updated more easily as
technologies change. The guidelines themselves, as a Recommendation, can
only be changed (except for minor errata) via the W3C process.

Consequently, the question of what is or should be normative is important
in a number of respects and has significant consequences.

Doubtless there is an important role to be played by educational and
explanatory materials related to web accessibility which are not W3C
Recommendations and do not place emphasis upon notions of conformance and
normativity; but it is not the primary task of this working group to
produce such documents. Techniques documents to complement the guidelines
clearly lie within our scope and, in fact, constitute an essential part of
our deliverables; but it is important to bear in mind that the purpose of
this group is, first and foremost, to deliver a W3C technical

Thus to summarize our deliverables:

1. WCAG 2.0, a W3C Recommendation.

2. Non-normative techniques documents, published as W3C notes, to provide
explanations, code examples and other technology-specific information.

3. Checklists and other materials as deemed necessary by the working
Received on Monday, 15 October 2001 22:25:28 UTC

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