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Re: Take 4 - Proposal for Definitions and coformance (with just 2 Levels)

From: Jason White <jasonw@ariel.ucs.unimelb.edu.au>
Date: Tue, 15 Apr 2003 19:20:58 +1000
Message-ID: <16027.52986.473145.389539@jdc.local>
To: "John M Slatin" <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu> (by way of Wendy A Chisholm <wendy@w3.org>)
Cc: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

"John M Slatin" <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu> (by way of Wendy A Chisholm <wendy@w3.org>) writes:
 > I find myself increasingly uneasy about the direction in which the
 > reorganization of WCAG 2.0 that Gregg first proposed at the March 2003
 > face to face is taking us, despite the fact that Gregg's Take 4
 > represents a substantial improvement over the original. > 
 > I mean this as a practical argument as well as a high-falutin
 > cultural/political one.  When accessibility features are invisible
 > they're also easier to overlook-even for the people who created them in
 > the first place. 
 > I think we need conformance schemes that encompass both "visible" and
 > "invisible" accessibility features.

I am not sure what you are proposing here. What Gregg argued at the
face to face meeting was that in order for the guidelines to be widely
adopted and implemented, it must be possible to conform at a minimum
level without imposing constraints on the author's expression and
presentational style. That is to say, the accessibility would be
achieved by way of markup and other forms of machine-readable content,
including, potentially but not necessarily, metadata, sufficient to
enable highly accessible presentations to be generated by "mainstream"
user agents, assistive technologies, or both.

Now if the main premise of Gregg's argument at the face to face
meeting is accepted, namely that guidelines establishing a minimal
conformance level that substantially constrained expression or
presentation, would not be adopted, perhaps wouldn't proceed so far as
a W3C Recommendation at all, then the choice clearly lies between
having no guidelines (or widely ignored guidelines), on the one hand,
with consequent fragmentation of the standard, and having guidelines
which define a minimum conformance level that meets this condition, on
the other. According to Gregg, and my impression from the face to face
meeting is that he is by no means alone in this opinion, the dilemma
just outlined is very real. If this is true then what option is
there other than to establish a minimum conformance requirement of the
kind that Gregg's latest definition, based on last week's
teleconference, encapsulates? While I understand John's unease I don't
perceive any alternative, unless one thinks the Web community at large
is willing to accept guidelines which, at a minimum, constrain
expression or presentation in non-trivial ways. Obviously, if there
are other options then this would be an ideal moment to put them

Actually, I am currently considering a conformance idea that would
meet the "no constraints on expression/presentation" requirement, but
in a qualified sense. Specifically, the proposal would be that content
could conform minimally to the guidelines without constraining
presentation and expression, provided that the author used formats
(e.g., markup languages) that were appropriately supported by user
agents and assistive technologies, and allowed all of the necessary
information to be supplied to enable a high standard of accessibility to
be attained. If the author were using formats that didn't support the
inclusion of the required semantics then the accessibility would have
to be provided "directly", that is, by constraining the presentation
or expression of the primary content. Minimum conformance would then
be achieved if either all the semantics were supplied in a format
accessible to user agents and/or assistive technologies, including,
potentially, server-side technologies, or there existed one or more
author-supplied presentations that would meet the requirements defined
in the guidelines. Under this scheme it is possible to meet the
guidelines at a minimal level without impinging on presentation or
expression, so long as the content is written in a format or
combination of formats from which, in practice, a highly accessible
user interface can be automatically generated, and the technology for
doing so is available (according to some definition of availability
that would need to be worked out).

For example, Lisa's sample "inaccessible" pages, together with their
associated metadata, would qualify under this scheme as minimally
conformant. There might be a requirement that a link be provided from
the home page to the transformation server, but beyond that no
constraints on presentation or expression would be imposed. Obviously
this is only one example of content that might minimally conform and I
do not wish to suggest that RDF or other metadata would need to be
used in order to achieve minimum conformance. Indeed, with appropriate
markup, many HTML Web pages would conform also, as would any
presentation-oriented content that offered "direct" accessibility
(i.e., level 2 of Gregg's definition).

As I am not sure whether the proposal I have in mind is likely to
work, I need to consider it further before discussing it in detail. My
main point with this message is to sharpen the issues at stake and to
open up the question of what our options are, and what kinds of schemes
are available for consideration.
Received on Tuesday, 15 April 2003 05:21:22 UTC

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