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Re: WCAG1.0 Checkpoint 10.5 - still valid?

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2003 00:22:42 -0800
Cc: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
To: "Dave Shea" <dave@mezzoblue.com>
Message-Id: <0635997E-2AEA-11D8-A91E-000393AF2932@idyllmtn.com>

On Tuesday, December 9, 2003, at 11:12 AM, Dave Shea wrote:
>> Currently, you "fail" triple-A, but this is a bug in the whole
>> WCAG 1.0 process to begin with.  There is method by which any
>> particular person or group was authorized to say that the "Until
>> user agents..." clauses have been met.  The page author is not
>> allowed to claim these clauses are fulfilled, and the working
>> group has not claimed that function either.
> Where is it stated that a page author isn't allowed to make the claim?

It's not.  But there is no mechanism for making that claim, and no
guidelines by which page authors are "allowed" to specify that such
a state has been reached.

In fact, within the WCAG working group, you will not find unanimity of
opinion.  One respondent said that the conditions for negating the
checkpoint weren't met, because of Lynx.  Another said that they
were.  Is it enough for Safari to support something?  Safari and Opera?
Opera and Mozilla?  Mozilla and Internet Explorer?  Which operating
systems count for "until user agents"?  What languages?  If there is
only one browser in Croatian, does that mean the checkpoint applies for
Croatian pages if the browser doesn't do the right thing?

This is why every single checkpoint with "until user agents" is
fatally flawed.  Checkpoints were given with expiry conditions but
with no information on how those conditions can be met.

To some degree, it can be left up to the author -- but then, so can
all checkpoints.  Reducing accessibility to a series of subjective
decisions made by Web developers with incentive for self-approval,
who likely don't have much knowledge of assistive technology or people
with disabilities is a Real Bad Idea.

Dave, as you and I discussed a while ago, most Web developers are
in the dark about the basics of screen readers, let alone other
assistive technologies.  In order for a Web developer to have the
knowledge necessary to make this decision, they'd have to, well,
know as much about Web accessibility as the WCAG working group
members (even though there's not a unanimous opinion yet).  This
defeats the whole purpose of the guidelines, which is to summarize
information for Web developers who AREN'T Web accessibility

That is why this is a problem.  Web developers aren't given enough
information to know which rules apply and which don't.

> I'd be interested in reading up on that. Or is that the bug in this
> case, that the door is open for page authors to make that 
> determination?

I wouldn't say the bug is that it's left open, I'd say that the bug
is that the "until user agents" clauses don't actually give Web
developers adequate guidance, and requires them to be experts in order
to know whether a checkpoint should be followed.

E.g., you, Dave, are one of the best Web developers around, with skill
that surpasses 99% of the folks out there (and I do admire your work,
and quote you in the Web Accessibility Techniques course), and you
don't even know for sure what those checkpoints are supposed to mean.

Yes, you are smart enough to figure what works for you, but the point
of a standard set of guidelines is to avoid that whole thing where
everyone figures it out themselves. :)

>> It is for this reason that the "Until user agents..." clauses are
>> so disliked and opposed by many, including myself.  The plans for
>> WCAG 2.0 have long been to totally eliminate any such requirements
>> that are tied to a specific date in time with no way of certifying
>> that the conditions have been universally met.
> Completely unrelated to the issue at hand, but since you've got me
> curious - will there be checks in place to make sure obsolete 
> guidelines
> don't live past their expiry date?

I am not an active member of the WCAG working group currently, so I
will leave this for someone else to answer.  I'm just here as a
kibitzer and an interested party who has to do a lot of the WCAG-to-
Web-developer education himself.

 From what I understand, if anything similar to "until user agents"
is necessary, it will be in technology-specific checkpoints, and not
in base guidelines.

>> This is just one of many reasons to consider WCAG 1.0 triple-A to
>> be effectively unreachable; there's little reason to pursue that as
>> a goal, and instead the goal should be to pursue increased
>> accessibility and usability for people with disabilities.
> But isn't that the entire point of WCAG 1.0 in the first place?

Yes. :)

> I can
> understand deviation between what was, 5 years ago, and what is, in 
> late
> 2003. But until WCAG2.0 is released, what else can the average 
> developer
> be expected to use as a framework for accessibility?
> d.

This is why some of us have been pressing for the WCAG working group
to issue a WCAG 1.0 Second Edition, to fold in errata and bring the
"until user agents" clauses up to date.  You have correctly identified
what I, as a quasi-outsider, see as a serious problem:  WCAG 1.0 is
currently unworkable in the details, and needs some tweaking to restore
it to a form in which 2003/2004 Web developers can address accessibility
until WCAG 2.0 appears.


Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                     http://kynn.com
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain                http://idyllmtn.com
Author, CSS in 24 Hours                       http://cssin24hours.com
Shock & Awe Blog                                http://shock-awe.info
Inland Anti-Empire Blog                   http://inlandantiempire.org
Received on Wednesday, 10 December 2003 03:23:43 UTC

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