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RE: Is AAA Onerous?

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2000 09:33:51 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
At 02:33 PM 12/20/2000 , Charles F. Munat wrote:
>ALL standards require subjective judgment. That is why we have courts.
>Despite putting lawyers through years of training and spending huge sums of
>money to write documents as objectively as possible, every document is open
>to interpretation and misinterpretation. Are you arguing that we should
>abandon laws and standards?

No, but I'm also saying that a vague standard, with checkpoints
where the checker _does not know if she has met the standard_.

In that case, it is not a standard, is a guideline.  I wish we (me,
Charles F. Munat, and others reading this) would be very careful
about calling this a _standard_ -- it's not.  It's a set of advice,
and trying to shoehorn a collection of "good and proper things to
do" into the term "standard" is sure to fail.

>The WCAG is far from perfect, and there are certainly a few checkpoints that
>are far too vague. But like any other standard, it presumes that people are
>reasonable and that the intent is to meet the standard, not to subvert it.

You (Charles F. Munat) are quite good at the loaded language, such
as "subvert it" -- which is another code word for meaning "didn't
meet this to my satisfaction."

>The WCAG was not intended to be a hard-and-fast standard. 

And yet you (Charles F. Munat) tend to enforce it as if it were.  In
fact, WCAG wasn't meant to be any kind of "standard" whatsoever.

>You are making mountains out of molehills. Most of the guidelines are quite
>clear when taken at face value. That others require more interpretation is
>no reason to claim that the document as a whole is worthless.

I'm not sure I understand, Charles F. Munat, why you are misrepresenting
my position here.  I assume it's because you (Charles F. Munat) feel
that by lying about what I've said, you're able to strengthen your
position.  For those playing along at home, this is called a "straw
man argument" and is often used when someone's logical arguments have
run out.  It's useful because you simply have to misrepresent your
opponent's views with something outlandish, prove that outlandish
point to be untenable, and then claim "victory" without even addressing
what was said.

In this case, I've never said that the whole document is worthless.
On the contrary, I believe that WCAG is very useful as a set of 
guidelines (remember what they're called!) which offer constructive
advice for web authors on how to make sites more accessible to a
broad group of users.

It's simply not all that useful as a "standard", a term which I feel
that many (Charles F. Munat and others) are misapplying here, and by
thinking of it in that manner, they decrease rather than increase the
value of WCAG.

>Kynn wrote:
>"I really wish you could lay off resorting to personal attacks or things
>like it, and instead address what I say."
>You attack us in general terms, claiming that those who disagree are
>unenlightened. We respond directly (which I think is a lot less
>disingenuous). So no-one, save you, is resorting to personal attacks. We are
>*responding* to personal attacks. And since most of what you say seems to be
>"I'm right, you're wrong, and anyone who can't see that is unrealistic," I'd
>say we're addressing exactly what you say. Keep your comments to the
>guidelines and stop making judgments of those who disagree with you, and
>you'll get a better response.

Charles F. Munat, I believe that you need to look up the definition
of personal attack.

>Kynn wrote:
>"What is not under debate are my own interpretations, as I didn't even
>_give_ them, Charles."
>Maybe the discussion would benefit if you *would* be specific, Kynn. Such as
>telling us specifically who it is that can't seem to grasp reality.

Charles F. Munat, I believe it's you.

>It's easy to bash other points of view when you offer no real point of view
>yourself. By avoiding specifics, you avoid exposing yourself to criticism.
>Without those specifics, however, your position sounds like this:
>The guidelines suck. The compliance system sucks. The interpretations of
>many people on this list suck. And anyone who disagrees is a fool.

Yes, and nobody likes it when you point out the Emperor has no
clothes, and everyone likes to shoot the messenger.

The point of the Web Accessibility Initiative is not to be a blind
cheerleader for a collection of advice gathered together several years
ago.  The point of WAI is to improve accessibility, period.

To that end, we may indeed need to take a look at many of our "sacred
cows" and our strictly dogmatic approaches to accessibility and see if
our own policies are having the net effect of increasing or decreasing
accessibility.  We need to look beyond our own insights and reach
out to others -- as I do regularly myself -- and hear what people
are saying.  We need to assume that other viewpoints do not threaten
us, Charles F. Munat, but instead strengthen us.

I will agree with some of the points you've accused me of:

1.  I think that WCAG "sucks" as a _standard_, but I believe it is of
     incomparable value to web designers as _guidelines_.

2.  The compliance system does "suck."  It provides a disincentive
     for accessibility, and thus is itself a barrier to access.  A
     better compliance plan is needed, and I've already volunteered
     to do the work on defining what such a scheme requires.

3.  Some interpretations "suck" in the sense that any interpretations
     suck.  By leaving compliance up to interpretation by a third
     party, you are in effect having no "standards" -- which is why it
     is bizarre to try to enforce it as if it were a standard.  There
     are some interpretations which I disagree with, and some of those
     are yours, Charles F. Munat.

4.  I don't think anyone on this list is a fool, save, perhaps, for
     people who people who forget that we're on the same side and
     who decide that someone's motives must be impure if they disagree.
     By whom I mean you, Charles F. Munat.

>And then you wonder why some might find you "sour"?

I don't understand this.  I've got a specific philosophic viewpoint
about the WCAG 1.0 document, and interpretation thereof; nothing in
that requires that I be "sour" or have any other emotional attachment
to the argument.  This is about ideas, man, not about bitterness.

If anyone seems bitter, it's those people who complain that intellectual
arguments don't name them by name.  By whom I mean you, Charles F.

Please don't assume that because I disagree with you, that I am
attacking _you_ or that I am "sour" -- it's a short path from there
to deciding that your opponent is not an ally but is instead some
sort of scumbag on "the other side."  I fear that some people on
this list may have already gone down that path, sadly.  By whom I
mean you, Charles F. Munat.

>Practice what you preach, Kynn. Lay off attacking us and start talking about
>specific guidelines and suggestions for how *you* think they should be

I did that, Charles.  That's how the discussion started.

However, note that my goal is not to enforce _my_ interpretation, but
rather to identify places in which reasonable people may differ, which
are weak points in WCAG if used as a standard.  I'm less concerned
with seeing "my way" triumph as much as making the task of accessible
web design easier for web authors to understand and accomplish.

That's been my goal all along, for a number of years, Charles F.
Munat.  I don't know why you presume to judge my motives otherwise.


Kynn Bartlett  <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                    http://kynn.com/
Director of Accessibility, Edapta               http://www.edapta.com/
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain Internet   http://www.idyllmtn.com/
AWARE Center Director                      http://www.awarecenter.org/
What's on my bookshelf?                         http://kynn.com/books/
Received on Thursday, 21 December 2000 12:45:06 UTC

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