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

From: Lisa Seeman <lisa@ubaccess.com>
Date: Sun, 19 Dec 2004 15:00:55 +0200
To: Gregg Vanderheiden <gv@trace.wisc.edu>, "'Yvette P. Hoitink'" <y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl>, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Message-id: <040c01c4e5ca$f564e080$680aa8c0@IBMA4E63BE0B9E>
>   - do we really want to say that something is accessible if it cannot be
>used by people with disabilities -- but theoretically could if someday
> someone made a tool that allowed it?

My 2 cents...
When I started using RDF  (resources description framework) techniques to
enhance accessibility we had the same problem. It was clear that this
technology we could do much much more for different disability related
scenarios that using standard HTML techniques. However, if we weighted for
user agent support it would never happen. They will only support that
authors are doing, and authors will only use the techniques that work with
Assistive Technologies (AT). Catch 22 as they say - the one can not hapen
without the other.

We got over the "chicken and egg" senario by adding a serversisde
transcoding/ middlewear service at the same time. We chose a few user cases
or "prepackaged" scenarios (general accessibility, page map visual
rendering/ enhanced navigation etc..) we then  applied the RDF to make
transcoded versions of the same content accessible and optimized  to the
different scenarios or user cases -but using HTML so it workes with current
Assistive Technologies.

We hope more assistive technologies will support RDF directly. However, in
the mean time, if anyone wanted to use RDF to enhance accessibility, they
can use the serverside (free) service, and get it working today.

The same technique can be other platforms -if they want to they can provide
sever side accessibility services until "AT" catches up and directly
supports their accessibility features.

What does need to be tolerated is to allow different versions, based on the
same source document so long as you can easily reach the one version from
the other.

Keep well

Yvette wrote:

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
Received on Sunday, 19 December 2004 13:03:28 UTC

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