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RE: Guidelines = Standards

From: Bailey, Bruce <Bruce.Bailey@ed.gov>
Date: Tue, 8 Nov 2005 09:37:21 -0500
Message-ID: <CCDBDCBFA650F74AA88830D4BACDBAB50B2D49A6@wdcrobe2m02.ed.gov>
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

> It is confusing but the W3C Guidelines are standards.

Agreed actually.

> Don't let the word Guidelines confuse you.

Don't worry about confusing *me* -- I am pretty sophisticated for a bureaucrat.  But perhaps you meant the plural form of the word?  Anyway, the word Guidelines in WCAG is *not* the problem.  The problem is how the word guidelines is used *inside of* the standards.

Last time round with the WCAG1 it was straightforward.  The guidelines could be treated as the most fundamental part (so long as one used a decimal point).  The parts that served well as checklists.  The parts that became actual standards, like with 508 1194.22.

We all remember WCAG1 having guidelines.  Those not following WAI, but who are familiar with WCAG1, will quite reasonably assume that since WCAG2 has a similar name and also uses the term guidelines that the use of that word will not have changed substantially.  In the absence of precedent the migration to success criteria is okay -- but you can't confound that previous experience by ALSO using the word guidelines, at least not anywhere other than the title.  If WCAG2 was a new document from scratch, using the term guidelines as they are being used would be fine.  But that is not the case.  You are building on the success and name recognition of WCAG1 (as well you should be) but using one of the most fundamental terms from that document in a wholly different mechanism.  It is not fair.  It will cause huge misunderstanding.

> The WCAG success criteria are used to measure conformance

Yep and that approach is pretty good.  People just love to jump right into the meaty parts.  The checklists are there for those people to have right at the success criteria.  Love to try and read those checklists all by themselves.  Has anyone done usability tests on how those checklists work as standalone documents for people familiar with WCAG1 (and/or 508) but new to WCAG2?  People who think they know a thing or two about accessibility, but haven't been following WAI will try and use the checklists without reading the rest of WCAG2.  You can't hope to stop them.  Yes, it is their own fault for daring to believe they were accessibility experts.

> conformance with the standard at 3 levels. 

Yeah, this is another confusing issue.  See, I won't be using two of those three levels, you know?  No enforcement body is expected to be using the third level.  Why do we need three levels again?

> The Guidelines and success criteria are normative - that 
> is - they are used to determine conformance with WCAG 2.0.

Yep, got it.  But why not write them using regulatory language then?

For all non-text content that is used to convey information, text alternatives identify the non-text content and convey the same information.

and not:
Text alternatives shall identify the non-text content and convey the same information as all non-text content that is used to convey information.

If you leave it to us bearcats to convert your words so we can actually legally use them, well that is just one more roll of the dice isn't it?

> The Guide Doc is an informative document that is separate 
> from the Guidelines.  It gives information on the intent 
> of the guidelines

Helpful, but I can't enforce from there.  Gotta fail them on a success criteria first.

> as well as listing what the working group considers to be 
> sufficient techniques for meeting the success criteria.    

Yes, sufficient but not necessary.  Still doesn't help me with actual accountability.
> I don't know what you mean by a middle layer so I can't help you with that one.

The Guidelines (capital G) contain principles contain guidelines (the middle layer I am talking about) which contain success criteria.  Do you see how that might be confusing?  Especially for someone with passing familiarity with how this worked last time with WCAG1; the Guidelines contained guidelines which contained checkpoints that people everywhere (including folks on the WAI) routinely referred to as guidelines.  (Since there were only two levels, this poor habit didn't cause problems.)

> Hope this helps

I hope my candid perspective is helping.
Received on Tuesday, 8 November 2005 14:37:35 UTC

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