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Overview of "baseline" (was re: Definition of baseline)def of baseline

From: John M Slatin <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu>
Date: Thu, 7 Apr 2005 09:19:07 -0500
Message-ID: <6EED8F7006A883459D4818686BCE3B3B7AE13C@MAIL01.austin.utexas.edu>
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Loretta, et al., proposed a definition of "baseline" for inclusion in
the WCAG 2.0 gloassary.  Since this is such an important term for us, I
thought it might be useful to try to bring together key points in the
thread about the proposed definition. This may help us come to
First, here's a definition of the word "baseline" itself, from Princeton
University's WordNet 2.0:
        WordNet 2.0 lists the following as the first sense of the word
Sense 1
baseline -- (an imaginary line or standard by which things are measured
or compared; "the established a baseline for the budget")
WordNet then offers the following synonyms for this sense of baseline:

       => standard, criterion, measure, touchstone -- (a basis for
comparison; a reference point against which other things can be
evaluated; "they set
the measure for all subsequent work")
I bring this in just to make sure that we use the word "baseline" in a
way that's consistent with this sense of the word.  I believe that we
*are* using it correctly in what folows (though I'd prefer to replace
the word "imaginary" in the definition with something like "arbitrary"
instead <grin>.
Here is the definition proposed by Loretta, et al:
Definition of baseline:
The minimum set of technologies that must be supported by user
in order to access all information and functionality of a Web
Developers must ensure that all information and functionality of
Web site conforms to WCAG assuming user agents support only this
minimum set of technolgies. Developers may also choose to use
technologies that are not in the minimum set provided that the
following are true:
The Web site is still operable using user agents that only
the technologies that are in the minimum set (i.e. the use of
technologies that are not in the minimum set does not "break"
Web site for user agents that don't support them.)
All site content and function must be available using only
baseline technologies
Jason proposed some changes to the definition, as follows:
The term "Web site" should be deleted from the definition, and the
term "Web content" used instead. Due to our decisions on scoping, what
we really mean in this context is "Web content", not "Web site".
The term "technology" is not defined.
"Technology" means a data format, programming or markup language,
protocol or API.
Then, responding to Roberto Scano's comment that the word "technology"
is too ambiguous,
Jason added:
This is exactly the worry that prompted me to write a definition. We
should choose a better term, agree on a definition, or preferably
both. I think "format, programming or markup language, protocol or
API" are sufficient to cover everything intended (CSS is presumably a
"format" according to this definition).

Roberto responded with some additional requirements for what should be
included in the definition of "technology":
This is good if we do a definition of technology limited to the www and
that involve contents and user agents that must involve:
* user agent interface and OS accessibility API support
* type of content (markup, programming language, etc.)

Tim supplied a; it's not clear to me whether this counts as agreeing
with Jason's assertion that CSS is "a format," but it would certainly
support the definition of CSS as a technology definition of CSS:
"Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a simple mechanism for adding style
fonts, colors, spacing) to Web documents" - source is [1]:

Tim also proposes adding a definition of "content" to the WCAG 2.0
Also, if "Web content" is being referenced, need to include a definition
[2]  (maybe include
following points: "something contained in..", "subject matter of written
work", or "meaning or significance of work" in our definition (for the
Web).. (source for quoted phrases is noun listing of "content" in
II  New Riverside University Dictionary 1984)


"Good design is accessible design." 
John Slatin, Ph.D.
Director, Accessibility Institute
University of Texas at Austin
FAC 248C
1 University Station G9600
Austin, TX 78712
ph 512-495-4288, f 512-495-4524
email jslatin@mail.utexas.edu
web http://www.utexas.edu/research/accessibility/


Received on Thursday, 7 April 2005 14:19:10 UTC

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