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Validity Re: [wcag2] Layout tables

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2004 10:58:57 -0400 (EDT)
To: Maurizio Boscarol <maurizio@usabile.it>
Cc: Jens Meiert <jens.meiert@erde3.com>, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.55.0404190952030.27100@homer.w3.org>

Where you might be wrong is if you are prepared to do something that works
fine for one group of people now, at the expense of others whose problems you
don't recognise, or at the expense of developing better tools in the future
that serve people better.

As an example, consider the idea of navigating through several layers of a
complex HTML site to a page by skipping through the link text or by skipping
through the heading structure of each page.

WCAG contains checkpoints designed to assist both. For a long time people
were unable to navigate by headings in the most popular tools (Internet
Explorer, Netscape), although in others such as Opera it was available many
years ago, providing a useful functionality tyo keyboard users. Instead,
people would navigate by moving through lists of links.

This practical reality meant that things like an extra link saying "skip to
something" would be added at various places in a page. Watching blind JAWS
users give demos in teh late 90's it was horribly obvious that for them it
was very difficult to get an overview of the page content because they had no
mechanism for understanding the heading structure. Yet the absence of this in
tools was long offered as a reason why it didn't matter if the validation of
headings made sense, whereas getting link text perfect was considered
important. (Now JAWS/IE has caught up with other systems and can navigate by
headings, although it is still somewhat painful in Explorer if you don't have
JAWS - contrary to what I asserted a while ago the javascript-based
additional functions tend to have poor structure navigation options.)

It seems to me that building reliable systems is often the best way to serve
the most people. And reliable systems tend to require that validation is more
important overall than a particular presentation aspect.

As Joe Clark has pointed out, you should be able to build valid, semantically
correct content and expect users to have tools that implement standards
(whether they are on a phone, a new shiny machine, a library or school
computer, using an augmentative systemm to provide a signing avatar, extra
glossary, or similar comprehension aid...). Reality turns out not to be quite
like that - people do have poor tools, and cannot always replace them with
something that works better. But pandering to broken tools tends to be at the
expense of longer-term solutions, and I think it is very important to look
for alternative repair strategies that don't break validation and semantics
for others...



On Mon, 19 Apr 2004, Maurizio Boscarol wrote:

>The same difference between serving a validator rather than serving
>people. Ok, it's a suggestive declaration, I know... ;-) and I have
>nothing against validators, parsers and such algorithmical tools. But I
>still prefere people, that's all. If I can't serve both, then I prefer
>to serve people.
>Where am I wrong?... :)

Charles McCathieNevile  http://www.w3.org/People/Charles  tel: +61 409 134 136
SWAD-E http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/Europe         fax(france): +33 4 92 38 78 22
 Post:   21 Mitchell street, FOOTSCRAY Vic 3011, Australia    or
 W3C, 2004 Route des Lucioles, 06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France
Received on Monday, 19 April 2004 10:59:04 UTC

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