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Comments about Visual Friendly point of view about accessibility and WCAG

From: Jérôme Ernu <jernu@VisualFriendly.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Apr 2002 10:33:49 +0200
Message-ID: <E64385C0E894544F97DDE0A64617663F0FEE99@visualserver.visual.com>
To: "'w3c-wai-gl@w3.org'" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Hello all,
My name is Jerome ERNU, I am a french usability specialist working in a
firm developping a software solution to make websites accessible for the
visually impaired. We would like to contribute to this group in
providing our opinion and point of view about WCAG. We will read with
attention your feedback about this mail, but we won't be able to join
and participate regularly to the group.


*****WCAG and Visual Friendly*****
Visual Friendly software adapts Web sites to make them accessible to all
visual needs, from cases of eyestrain, through visual impairment to
blindness. Accordingly, Visual Friendly monitors the evolution of WCAG
guidelines and incorporates them into its software development. 

*****WCAG 2.0 ( 26 October 2001)*****
The WCAG 2.0 document states that accessibility "can be achieved through
a single rendering or multiple accessible renderings of the same content
optimized for different situations".

We understand "different situations" as being a reference not only to
different types of information technologies (WAP, PDA, etc.), but also
to different types of users. WCAG 1.0 permitted alternative versions of
Web sites only under special conditions, i.e. if the content remains the
same. 

Visual Friendly welcomes the less restrictive approach of the WCAG 2.0
guidelines. Indeed, we believe that as long as content remains the same,
use of alternative and adapted Web sites can considerably improve
accessibility and usability for end users.

*****Visual Friendly*****
Visual Friendly software adapts Web pages according to the personal
preferences of the individual Internet user (see
http://www.VisualFriendly.com). Sites using Visual Friendly enable users
to entirely customize visual formatting and Web page lay out in
accordance with their needs, including : 
- characters size
- colors of links, characters and key areas on screen
- navigation toolbars position.

 To improve usability, users can choose to: 
- move the navigation toolbars towards the top, bottom, left or right of
the page,
- display the text in shorthand Braille.

In addition, various keyboard shortcuts allow users to easily locate key
areas on page. 

Web pages are displayed according to :
- user's legibility preferences and 
- page templates designed by usability specialists. 

These templates have been tested and validated by the target users,
visually impaired and sighted people.

Visual Friendly preserves the whole content of the original Web site.
The application is based on the WAI guidelines, and also on Visual
Friendly's research.


*****Different users  and impairments *****
Different types of Internet users with unique needs
For instance WCAG 1.0 advises to include "titles" on "links" to improve
accessibility (http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/ checkpoint 13.1). In fact, a
display box on a mouse-over is disturbing for some visually impaired
users (ie : people who need inverted contrast to avoid dizziness fits).


Identifying user profiles is key to design an efficient Web site.
However, all users are different and have individual characteristics :
there is no "average" user, nor an "average" visually impaired user.
This is why it is difficult to provide fully adapted accessibility for
all users. 

WCAG guidelines aim at being generic to all impairments, although some
guidelines are specific. We believe guidelines to be more efficient if
they are specific for each type of impairment. For example, blind people
do not have the same requirements as users than far-sighted users, nor
users who need soft contrast do not have the same requirements than
people who need strong contrast.

Specific guidelines for each impairment will improve overall
accessibility.

*****Accessibility evaluation tools*****
Automatic tools of accessibility validation use WAI guidelines
(specifically WCAG 1.0). Therefore they validate accessibility for any
impairment and evaluate our customized Web sites as "inaccessible" as
our web pages are specifically accessible to visual impaired.

However, Visual Friendly usability experts have designed this service
with visually impaired and user tests have demonstrated that Visual
Friendly pages are fully accessible. 

Therefore, Visual Friendly pages should be approved as accessible.
Is it possible to design accessibility evaluation tools for each user's
unique situation? 
Customization
WCAG 2.0 guidelines cannot answer all specific needs.
Providing customizable interfaces improves accessibility to the visually
impaired: content remains unchanged, and visual appearance is adapted. 

*****Difference between technical accessibility and usability *****
Technical accessibility is not usability 
Technical accessibility and specific resources to design Web sites
accessibly for all is a necessary but insufficient step. A technically
accessible Web site is not necessarily usable and easy to learn. 

For example, a retail Web site with navigation links at the top makes a
blind user's navigation very uneasy as it forces her/him explore every
link. 

The same site organized in a customized way enables the user to locate
navigation areas easily and improve her/his Internet surfing, using
shortcuts to navigate from one area to another.

******Functional unsteadiness*****
Navigating from one Web site to another is a learning experience for
every user: the position of functional elements (search engine, shopping
cart...), and sometimes even the way they function, changes. According
to Visual Friendly users tests, the visually impaired's primary problem
is to orient themselves on pages: where are they in relation to useful
and meaningful page elements?. These location problems are aggravated
with the use of screen magnifier.

Location problems increase with the navigation on different Web sites :
the visually impaired user's learning process on each Web site is
difficult and painstaking.

Providing standardized Web pages is a way to improve ease and speed of
use for the visually impaired. This is why Visual Friendly usability
specialists have designed adapted templates. For example, shortcuts
enable blind users to switch from an area to another, from navigation
toolbar to page content.

We think that standard position and functionning will benefit to all
users. Some particular elements sould be standardized or at least have
specific tags (ie, the "id" tag could be used, even if it is not its
purpose): 
- first level navigation
- second level navigation
- engine research elements
- forms,
- position bars...


*****Conclusion*****
We think that to improve all Web sites accessibility, it is important to
develop specific guidelines for visual impairment use. 

Visual Friendly pages have not been approved by some evaluation tools.
However, user tests have demonstrated that Visual Friendly pages are
fully accessible and therefore, should be approved.

Improving technical accessibility and usability are key to design
efficient and usable Web sites for all. 


If WG is interested in our point of view, we could do another work, with
more specific proposal...
Received on Tuesday, 2 April 2002 03:38:10 GMT

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