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RE: Slashdot: How should Govt sites be designed?

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2000 17:34:19 -0800
To: "'Kynn Bartlett'" <kynn@idyllmtn.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <007801c06637$2594d840$0100a8c0@aries>
Kynn and I have a difference of opinion? What a shock!

I wrote:
"They are also using FONT tags! And <b>! How can this be AAA or even AA? So:
3.3 (Priority 2) Use style sheets to control layout and presentation. I read
this as no bgcolor and definitely no font or bold tags."

Kynn replied:
"Actually, I have to disagree with this; I don't believe that bgcolor, font,
or bold themselves present -any- access problems whatsoever. It is entirely
possible to use those elements without creating accessibility barriers."

I reply:
It may be possible to use them without creating accessibility barriers, but
it is not possible to use them and meet guideline 3.3. And why should you
use them? They are a bad idea from the word go. What can you do with them
that you can't do with style sheets, except on old outdated browsers? The
whole point of this was to move FORWARD and you are moving BACKWARD.

Also, I thought that we had agreed long ago on this list that the only way a
font tag could be used accessibly was if it was used solely with the size
attribute and then only when sizes were specified relatively. Did I miss

But that's all beside the point. Let's go to the actual text of WCAG 1.0:

"3.3 Use style sheets to control layout and presentation. [Priority 2] For
example, use the CSS 'font' property instead of the HTML FONT element to
control font styles."

How can you say that 3.3 does not prohibit the use of font tags for control
of font styles when that is the very example given in the standard? Now,
whether that's a fair requirement or not is open to debate. But that font
tags are forbidden couldn't be much clearer. And we are not talking about
the actual accessibility of the site in question, which, save the problems
noted by Anne, is probably pretty accessible. We are talking about Triple-A
compliance with the WCAG 1.0. And I'm sorry but it ain't, it don't, it
won't, and it hasn't.

Frankly, Kynn, after reading many of your other posts on this subject, I
believe that you have a *political* motivation for making the above
statement. It seems clear to me (correct me if I'm wrong) that you believe
that a strict interpretation of the WCAG guidelines will scare away a lot of
potential converts. That's fine. But the solution is to change the WCAG as
necessary to solve this problem, *NOT* to reinterpret it in whatever way you
need to to accomplish your goal. Once you open that door, what's to keep
anyone from doing anything they want and posting a Triple-A icon? Is this
your goal? I doubt it.

"Use style sheets to control layout and presentation" means exactly what it
says: use style sheets. It does not say "Use HTML elements and attributes to
control layout and presentation except when you feel like using style

Maybe I'm missing something here, but the English seems very plain to me and
it is even my first language.

Kynn continues to err in his ways:
"Errors result when those are -relied upon- to provide information, not when
they are -used-. That is a subtle but key point to understanding
accessibility on the tag level."

I reply:
I'm not sure that this is true in all instances, but even if it is, what
does this have to do with interpretation of the WCAG? There are certainly
checkpoints in the guidelines that leave room for lots of interpretation
(e.g., 14.1), but this isn't one of them. And while I'm all for adhering to
the spirit of the guidelines rather than the letter, who gets to decide how
far the interpretation goes? Are you suggesting that we should applaud
people who ignore the guidelines that you don't like and claim Triple-A
compliance anyway?

Yes, you can make an inaccessible site that adheres to the guidelines (it
would be difficult, but I'm sure it could be done). And yes, you can make an
accessible site that doesn't adhere to the guidelines. And yes,
accessibility is what's really important, not adherence to a fallible and
imperfect set of guidelines. But the question here wasn't whether the
open.gov.uk site was accessible, but whether it was Triple-A compliant. It

Kynn finally makes a good point:
"By the way, I suggest spelling out Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A rather
than relying on the letters A, AA, and AAA, as those may be rendered

I reply:
Good idea. I'll do that in the future.

Kynn gets really carried away:
"Transitional XHTML is not deprecated. 11.2 does _not_ mandate the use of
XHTML Strict."

What does 11.2 say? It says:
"11.2 Avoid deprecated features of W3C technologies. [Priority 2] For
example, in HTML, don't use the deprecated FONT element; use style sheets
instead (e.g., the 'font' property in CSS)."

Holy cow! That font tag again! Could the WCAG 1.0 BE ANY CLEARER that FONT
elements are not part of an accessible page (not one that meets the
guidelines, anyway)? But that's old news. Look at it again:


First, I never said that XHTML Transitional was deprecated. But:

The difference between XHTML Strict and XHTML Transitional is that
Transitional contains all the DEPRECATED ELEMENTS AND ATTRIBUTES and Strict
does not. So if it validates as Transitional, but not as Strict, then the
page must use deprecated elements or attributes and CANNOT meet guideline

Note, 11.2 does *not* say, "Avoid deprecated features *when possible*." In
fact, it doesn't leave any room for maneuvering at all. You want to be
Double-A or Triple-A? Lose the deprecated elements. Effectively, that means
XHTML Strict (or maybe HTML 4.01 Strict), even if it's not spelled out that
way. Now if you're using framesets, that's a different story...

So -- still got your sense of humor, Kynn? -- I stand by my initial

Charles F. Munat
Unofficial WCAG interpreter and expert Kynn basher
Received on Thursday, 14 December 2000 20:28:28 UTC

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