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Call to embrace new technologies (Was: RE: issue with Guideline 4.2 )

From: Yvette P. Hoitink <y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl>
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2004 14:18:49 +0100
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <E1CfI0W-0003UG-Lt@frink.w3.org>

Loretta Guarino Reid wrote:
> I believe that the Guideline 4.2 Level 1 Success Criteria 
> should be reworded, since it's current reading seems to hold 
> some technologies to higher standards than others. 
> Rather than saying 
>   "At least one plug-in required to access the content 
> conforms to at least the default set of conformance 
> requirements of UAAG...", 
> I believe this success criteria should say 
>   "At least one user agent supporting the content conforms to 
> at least the default set of conformance requirements of UAAG..."
> that is, I don't think it should matter whether the support 
> comes in the form of a stand-alone user agent or as a plug-in 
> to a user agent that supports other forms of content as well.

I agree with Loretta that we shouldn't make special requirements for
plug-ins. I think WCAG 2 should be technology-agnostic and just use UAAG *
as a baseline to write our guidelines against. Whether the content is viewed
by a plug-in or a stand-alone user agent is a choice of the manufacturer
and/or the user and should not be a concern of the author.

I would like to go even further and propose to delete the entire success
criteria that there must be at least one  UAAG-compliant user agent for the
chosen technology. 

I strongly think WCAG 2 should embrace new technologies. Technology and
accessible user agents are a chicken-and-egg thing. If we require to use
only technologies for which UAAG *-compliant user agents exist, you can't
use a new technology that doesn't already have accessible UA's. That means
that only people who do not care about accessibility use that new technology
and the accessibility features are never used, to the manufacturers don't
see the need to support those features. This leaves a lot of people in the

If, on the other hand, we say you can write your content on the (initially
false) assumption that there is a user agent that is UAAG *-compliant,
people will use the accessibility features of the technology and
manufacturers will see the need to support the accessibility features. 

We have seen with WCAG 1 and Flash what can happen if we set a high bar on
new technologies. Some of my own clients decided not to make parts of their
website accessible because they really wanted to use the capabilities of
Flash and did not have the resources to make an equivalent accessible
alternative as well. They didn't use the accessibility features of Flash
because that would cost extra work and they thought that wouldn't help
accessibility because they still would not conform to the minimum level of
WCAG 1. This means that even now that Flash plug-ins support accessibility
features, their Flash content is still inaccessible. I really want to avoid
this situation in WCAG 2. 

A simple fact of life is that organizations WILL use new technologies
(unless forced by legislation). Instead of forbidding that, let's tell them
how to use the technologies in an accessible manner so more people will have
access to that content in the long run!

Yvette Hoitink
Heritas, Enschede, the Netherlands
E-mail: y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl
WWW: http://www.heritas.nl

* UAAG - user agent accessibility guidelines. Current version:
Received on Friday, 17 December 2004 13:18:56 UTC

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