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RE: Validation as test for basic accessibility

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2000 12:28:22 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: "Charles F. Munat" <charles@munat.com>
Cc: "Web Accessibility Initiative" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
At 10:05 AM 1/19/2000 , Charles F. Munat wrote:
>Agreed. So what if we promoted accessibility thus:
>1. Make sure your code is valid. This will ensure that it works well on a wide variety of browsers and is an important first step towards accessibility.

Don't "we" say this all the time?  That's where I'm a bit
confused, I think most people agree that it's a good first
step.  It simply does not meet the requirements for a priority
1 checkpoint.

Note also that when I started teaching my online course, Designing
For Universal Accessibility with HTML 4.0, I found some of my
students were very scared by the concept that in addition to 
learning accessible web design, they'd "have to" learn HTML 4.0,
CSS 1, etc to have any hope of making an accessible site.

To many of us on this list, that seems a bizarre and in-
comprehensible attitude -- however, we are the type of people who
-enjoy- reading very technical specifications such as the HTML 4.01
spec and WCAG 1.0 plus techniques.  Most web designers, though,
are not us!

There are many people who design web sites who have -no idea- what
HTML 4.01 is, how to make a page validate, or what the tags look
like.  However, these people need to, or want to, make accessible
web sites.  If our solution is "you MUST learn <long list of very
technical specs>" then we have LOST all the WYSIWYG creators!

I would much rather teach them sound principles of accessible
design than to require strict adherence to today's standards.  For
many of these people, it's not simply as easy as sitting down and
learning CSS or HTML 4.01 over a weekend.  If someone is using
(for example) FrontPage, and we say "use valid HTML", we've put
up our own artificial barrier because now that person has to learn
HTML.  On the other hand, if we say, "use ALT text on your 
images and remember that not everyone can see your multimedia,"
the bar for creating an accessible page is much lower than if spec
adherence is demanded.

Don't get me wrong -- I firmly believe that all code should be
valid -and- accessible.  However, by linking them together too
strongly we make it impossible for someone who does not speak native
HTML to create accessible web pages, and thus they won't even
bother since it can't be done.

Validity is good, but validity is not required for accessibility,

As a followup to something a few paragraphs back, the WCAG has
changed since my first online class, and no longer is there a huge
emphasis on "you MUST learn HTML 4 and you MUST learn CSS" to
meet the guidelines.  I think this was a good change, because it
makes the principles in the guidelines more approachable by the
target audiences who need it most.  Creating an accessible page
should not require thinking like a CS grad student.

Kynn Bartlett                                    mailto:kynn@hwg.org
President, HTML Writers Guild                    http://www.hwg.org/
AWARE Center Director                          http://aware.hwg.org/
Received on Wednesday, 19 January 2000 15:37:18 UTC

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