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How is requiring browser X in violation of the WCAG?

From: Bruce Bailey <bbailey@clark.net>
Date: Fri, 4 Jun 1999 11:42:33 -0400
Message-Id: <199906041544.LAA28400@smtp-gw.vma.verio.net>
To: "WAI IG" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
I may have really stepped into this time.  I hoping you all can help me
out.

Part of my job duties involve supporting our employees who use assistive
technology, notably screen readers.  There is a new (federally sponsored)
program to allow staff to participate in a online masters degree program at
George Washington University.  The problem is that GWU web site is a good
model of inaccessible design.  The "courseware" program is some customized
application developed in house (at GWU) that requires a certain browser
(for compatibility with poorly written JavaScript I believe).  Most of the
require reading materials will be distributed as PDF files.

My boss's boss's boss (the head of our agency) recognizes the importance of
accessibility and the validity of the WCAG, and appreciates how ridiculous
it would be to use traditional volunteer book readers to transcript a
supposedly electronic course.  Despite my best efforts, he does not believe
that a university's requirement for certain versions of certain software on
the client end is unreasonable, or in violation of the WCAG.

My needs (as I perceive them) are as follows:

1)  What is the most succinct way to argue that requiring a certain browser
IS in violation of the WCAG?

2)  Can anyone refer me to university accredited on-line classes that are
accessible with Lynx or pwWebSpeak?

In the meantime, I will be trying to upgrade the software for the one user
in question.  (She is currently very happy with MS IE 3x and Artic
WinVision.  WinVision, however, is not currently compatible with IE 4x and
Arctic makes no promises about compatibility with ANY versions of Netscape
Navigator.)  This will not help at all when it comes to the PDF files --
which are images of text -- access.adobe will be useless.  I am advocating
that, in the meantime, the user make extensive use of disabled student
services.  I am also (going through channels this time) trying to get this
issue on the radar of appropriate folks at GWU.  Anybody know the president
there?  <grin>  We have a little time, the class does not actually start
until the end of August.

The courseware registration page is at:
http://prometheus.gwu.edu/ -- use any text you like to get through the
front door -- but it is not compatible with IE 3x nor Lynx (nor pwWebSpeak
I would guess).

The pages at GWU warrant inspection -- they at least let one know that this
problem is endemic to the whole institution:
http://www.gwu.edu/

Thank you very much.

Bruce Bailey,
Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Rehabilitation Services
http://www.dors.state.md.us/
410/554-9211
Received on Friday, 4 June 1999 11:44:53 GMT

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