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Are Accessibility Standards Impeding Progress on the Web?

From: RUST Randal <RRust@COVANSYS.com>
Date: Fri, 23 Aug 2002 08:16:55 -0400
Message-ID: <37925254B67DD311876C009027B0FF92027FC6E0@cbscolex01.cbsinc.com>
To: "WAI (E-mail)" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Personally, I don't think so.  But I was involved in an interesting
discussion yesterday with another developer who feels that government
enforcement of Web accessibility is impeding progress.  

His feeling is that the inability to use Javascript to generate data on the
client side puts too much pressure on the server side of things.  For
example, not being able to use cookies forces the developer to track
everything through the server.  What we were discussing are not really sites
that exist for the purpose of content, or e-commerce, but rather web
applications.  Our web applications are really Web versions of our
client-server apps.  

My experience has been that the client-server applications were poorly
developed with little thought going into the usability of the user interface
or the logical structuring of information.  As a result, a lot of this
thinking has carried over to the Web application.  I think this is a lot of
the problem, because client-server people tend to think that you can do
everything on the Web the same as you can do it on the desktop.  While this
is partially true, it's not always the best method.

The other developer's opinion is that small companies cannot afford to
produce accessible applications.  This is because he thinks that they should
be able to use client-side scripting to do much of the work of the
application - simply because it's faster and easier to develop.  He thinks
that because of accessibility guidelines, these small companies are now
forced to spend more time and money developing and hosting web applications
that are larger and more intensive than they need to be.  And that this is
something that these companies cannot afford to do.

My opinion is that 508 and WCAG compliance is not that difficult to achieve,
but you need to approach things as though everything needs to be done
server-side, and then you can implement Javascript methods, rather than the
other way around.  In fact, I think this makes much more sense, because your
server-side methods are going to be a lot more reliable than Javascript
anyway (if, for example, JS is turned off, or the version you've used in not
supported).

I also feel that government guidelines and W3C guidelines are no big deal.
Every other industry has government sanctions and industry-wide standards,
so why shouldn't the Web?

Randal Rust
Covansys, Inc.
Columbus, OH
Received on Friday, 23 August 2002 08:28:52 GMT

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