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RE: [Fwd: [webwatch] How is access defined?]

From: Charles F. Munat <charles@munat.com>
Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000 14:08:02 -0800
To: "WAI Interest Group" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, <love26@gorge.net>
I'll take a shot at this.

1.  Some sites use Javascript.  Internet Explorer has no trouble with
these.  However, Lynx finds nothing.  Is this site accessible or not, and
should they be considered accessible from a government?

I think the WCAG is pretty clear on this and on use of noscript. In general, I try to stay away from JavaScript when the functionality is important and can't be duplicated. For example, I use JS for form validation because it's better to do that client-side. But I also validate server-side, so validation occurs regardless.

I also use Javascript for rollover effects and to put link descriptions in the status line. The rollover effects are helpful to sighted users, but lack of rollover effect does not harm those who can't see them or whose browsers don't support them. The status line messages are a useful aid, especially on WebTV, where the status line is large. But the message in the line shouldn't be so important that lack of it has a negative impact on usability.

2.  Many pages use tables.  A good example would be the TV Guide page or
bus schedules.  JFW 3.5 does a good job with tables. Lynx, and even older
versions of IE with screen readers, can't render them properly.  Are they

Again, the standard seems to cover this pretty well. The table should work when linearized, or a linearized version should be available. Are they accessible? Yes, if done properly.

3.  Many sites are accessible, but they are tedious to get around.  Are
they accessible?

I don't understand the question. Obviously, good information hierarchy and page layout can improve the accessibility of a site, but as long as you can get around it without too much trouble, it's accessible, IMO.

After reading these questions I think it should be clear to all that we are going to have a problem with the ADA if it remains applicable to the Web. The problem is this: there is no clear dividing line between accessible and inaccessible. While some things are clearly one or the other, most things fall into the gray middle ground. That may make for some painful litigation because it leaves so much open to interpretation.

Consider application of the ADA to the physical world: Hmmm. Stairs. Bummer. We need a ramp here.

That's pretty clear cut. But still, there's been a lot of argument about how to make places more accessible. Now consider the same situation on-line:

Well, I can sort of make out what this table is saying, but I'm not sure if I've got the columns right . . .

You can see that it's even more confusing.

Since none of us can define exactly when a site is accessible or not accessible, we can expect similar problems in the courts. It might behoove us to discuss ways around this now, before it becomes an issue in the press.

In short, the most pressing question here is not one of the three specific ones identified above, but the one that resides in the subject line: How is access defined? What works for a W3C recommendation might not be sufficient in a court of law.

Just thought I'd mention it . . .

Charles F. Munat,
Munat, Inc.
Seattle, Washington
Received on Friday, 11 February 2000 17:07:39 UTC

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