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Re: Politics: Strict Guidelines Considered Harmful

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2000 06:02:01 -0500 (EST)
To: Marti <marti@agassa.com>
cc: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>, "'Anne Pemberton'" <apembert@crosslink.net>, "'Kynn Bartlett'" <kynn@idyllmtn.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0012180542140.25452-100000@tux.w3.org>
This seems like a more considered and easier to digest message on the topic.

The discussion as I understand it is about a couple of different things.
There is a technical issue - what is the place of the font element? As I see
it, the use of the font element to enhance backwards compatibility does not
conflict with the use of CSS. The use of font to alone, to provide formatting
effects, is like the use of a style attribute containing CSS, or style sheets
that rely on id attributes to assign styles - it makes it very difficult for
the reader to provide therir own styles in a meaningful manner. If it is done
instead of identifying the semantics available in HTML, this is a double

Should we be supporting netscape 3? Intersting question, and one that was
raised by Graham Oliver. If a few people have some log data we could find out
whether it is really used much. If we can also find out whether that is
because people cannot upgrade for some reason, then we will be approaching an
answer. The further question is whether that is related to accessibility, or
is because their systems administratoror purchasing officer prohibits it (in
the latter case, I hope they realise that Netscape 3 was not a free product,
and paid for it...).

Glossing over the fact that there arre a couple of other very small
browsers that work the same, let us imagine these scenarios:

Nobody uses it ever.
  (I know this is not true - a friend of mine does, but not from any
requirement since he has a numberof other browsers he also uses from time to
time - much as I use Lynx). In this case, we could just ignore it. And the
font element too.

There are people with reading disabilities, who, because of their
disability are unable to upgrade, and for whom it is effectively impossible
to read unformatted text.
  Then we need to keep supporting it, and providing presentation by the use
of font elements in conjunction with CSS is still necessary

There are people with disabilities who cannot upgrade and find it difficult
to understand default-formatted content
  Same goes, but at P2 instead of P1 level (this is an abstract discussion -
particular checkpoints of WCAG aside for the moment)

There are people without disabilities, who use it and don't want to upgrade
  There is no accessibility requirement to use or not use font. There still
is a requirement to use a technology that allows for meaningful control of
presentation (CSS element/semantic class based styling, for example). It is
up to designers whether they want to provide the same experience for this
population or not.

Which brings me back to another part of the argument. Should designers
expect total control over the presentation of their page? My 2 bits worth
says "No, that is simply not possible, like expecting someone to make a night
last for 48 hours. It is reasonable for a designer, within the constraints of
the medium, to provide a presentation that enhances the comprehension and
clarity of their content." (I think that people were vehemently arguing this
point against each other, but from the same side in fact).

my 2 cents on teh topic that this has become...

Charles McCN

On Mon, 18 Dec 2000, Marti wrote:

  First, Thanks to Charles for clarifying my comments on graphics, and my
  apologies for a poorly chosen example that would in anyway imply I was in
  favor of text-only sites.

  I think there are actually three sides to this argument.  IMHO, both the
  primary sides have a number of good valid points.
  1. <font>, and its like, if allowed are likely to be misused. (decreasing
  2. If disallowed, <font>, and its like, will be used anyway as that level of
  the guidelines will be ignored. (decreasing accessibility)

  Under the occasionally hot rhetoric some good points have been made on both
  sides and it is my hope that some common ground can be found that will help
  us move to a web where <font>, and its like, are curiosities of the past.

Charles McCathieNevile    mailto:charles@w3.org    phone: +61 (0) 409 134 136
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative                      http://www.w3.org/WAI
Location: I-cubed, 110 Victoria Street, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia
September - November 2000:
W3C INRIA, 2004 Route des Lucioles, BP 93, 06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France
Received on Monday, 18 December 2000 06:02:06 UTC

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