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RE: simple & understandable

From: Wayne Myers-Education <wayne.myers@bbc.co.uk>
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 1999 18:37:16 +0100
Message-Id: <41ED4776F432D211ACBD0000F8EF7D7A01287CCF@w12wcedxu01.wc.bbc.co.uk>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
> The point is that accessibility to cognitively disabled people requires us
to reach for, and to extend, that limit, rather than dismiss the problem.

I don't agree. I want to dismiss the problem. 

Accessibility to cognitively disabled people requires the *content* of a
given web page be written in a certain way. Accessibility for all other
groups requires that the *mark-up* of a given web page be written in a
certain way. When we attempt to conflate the two kinds of accessibility, we
are conflating a set of essentially technical ideas about markup with a set
of essentially editorial guidelines about content.

Individual site producers already have editorial guidelines (whether
explicit or implicit), and there are many cases where it may well be
appropriate, possible and practical for such producers to include in their
guidelines some of the recommendations that have been made in terms of
increasing the understandability level of those pages.

But the whole rest of the thrust of the WAI's work has been about the
mark-up, about arbitrary content, and about a set of technical guidelines
that allows page authors to embed arbitrary kinds of editorial content into
pages in such a way as to ensure their universal availability regardless of
whatever physical impediments may lie in between server and user, including
old machines, slow modems or whatever.

Page authors are free to choose their editorial content - as they should be
- and I feel strongly that it is highly foolish for the WAI to attempt to
place any kind of limitation on this. Those page authors who feel that it is
appropriate for their editorial work to be widely understood will appreciate
all and any practical suggestions that may be collatable from those working
in the sphere of the cognitively disabled. And that's fine. But it's
'recommended' and not 'required' for the very good reason that the WAI (and
more generally the W3C) has absolutely no business whatsoever poking its
nose into editorial matters that are the free choice of the page author and
must always remain so.

Those page authors for whom it is inappropriate for their editorial work to
be widely understood - I'm not just thinking of technical papers and
academic theses but also of broadsheet newspapers, cultural journals,
literary works, poetry, experimental hypertexts, essays of all kinds,
subcultural community spaces and so on - must not be misled into thinking
that the WAI is also telling them what to do editorially, lest they assume
that the WAI is just a bunch of head-in-the-clouds politically over-correct
axe-grinders with nothing useful to say on the subject of markup, because
the WAI does have one or two (or fifteen, or three hundred) really useful
things to say on the subject of markup. Things that need to be heard. Things
that too many web professionals still reject because they haven't yet
realised that accessible markup is proper markup, and that web accessibility
is about doing the job properly.

Conflating accessibility issues with understandability issues could prove
horribly counter-productive and could diminish the potential impact of the
WAI campaign to improve the quality of markup out there.

Cheers etc.,

Received on Friday, 18 June 1999 13:37:27 UTC

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