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Re: The two models of accessibility

From: Isofarro <w3evangelism@faqportal.uklinux.net>
Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2003 11:00:25 +0100
Message-ID: <005701c2f9c8$009782a0$1330f7c2@laptop>
To: "Graham Oliver" <goliver@accease.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Graham,

(Firstly, thanks for the links to the BBCi accessibility study - they will
come in handy for me trying to write a web development guide)


> If I can try to restate to gain clarification you are saying that
accessibility
> is basically a 2 step process.

There are two "actions" involved, but I'm not sure whether there is a worthy
checkpoint at the end of the first "step" (the automated check). Is a
website accessible if it passes a AccessValet/Bobby/CynthiaSays test? I
don't think we can meaningfully separate the two actions and provide a
halfway point. I would rather suggest doing both steps simultaneously, since
there's nothing to be gained by separating them out.

Lets take an often seen example (HTML 4):
<img src="image15.gif" height="100" width="75" alt="image15.gif">

This would pass an automated check since there is an alt attribute and it
contains alternative text. Is it accessible though? I would say no, purely
because the alt text does not provide an alternative textual representation
of the image (unless the graphic that displays the words image15.gif).

> 1. Check with the automated tools.
> 2. Check (by an accessibility expert) those things that can't be checked
with
> the automated tools.

May I make a suggestion (sorry to nit-pick) - that we replace the term
"accessibility expert" (in this context) with the term "human being" or "web
author" or "web designer". I'm no accessibility expert, although there are
many people on this mailing list that can claim this, yet following a WCAG
checklist and understanding the guidelines does not require an accessibility
expert.

This does not mean that there is no place for an accessibility expert, since
they provide a very useful and important role - they build on the WCAG both
by pointing out its deficiencies, and offering alternative solutions. I see
the WCAG as an understanding of accessibility issues and best practice so
far. I fully expect it to be a living document that grows along with our
understanding of accessibility issues. As new ideas are generated,
challenged and proven, they are added to the WCAG. That's the vital role for
accessibility experts - to see beyond the WCAG, address its weaknesses.

> then usability is built upon that base.

Usability can be built on any base - accessible or inaccessible. I'd like to
believe that accessibility makes usability changes easier.

> I guess that we are back to definitions again.
>
> I would class 1 and 2 together to mean 'Technically Accessible' although I
> understand that I would probably be in a minority here. Most people would
> probably class those as 'Accessible'

I would classify the above as being "Generally Accessible according to
WCAG", with the relevant A, AA, or AAA conformance. It may not be fully
accessible, this is where an accessibility expert certainly helps - when you
need accessibility above and beyond WCAG.

You have a valuable point that is important to make, and needs to be made as
often and as loudly as possible. Passing an automated accessibility checker
does not guarantee that a website is accessible. The automation is there to
reduce the human effort required to check accessibility issues against WCAG.
Its a complements human effort, but does not fully replace.

Usability builds onto a website, whether it is accessible or not (as Lois
Wakeman's analogy neatly captures).

I guess the quirk we face is the "embrace and extend" of usability experts
in leveraging accessibility for their intended purposes - this is beneficial
for visitors with disabilities, since they are looking at devices in use by
people with disabilities (for example Nielsen's "Beyond ALT Text"). I fully
believe in catering for all audiences with accessible content, but not just
the disabled. I'd like to think that "structure- and semantic-aware client
tools" are part of the group benefitting from accessibility - that can
automate many of the dull repetitive web tasks we seem to manually labour
through each and every day (catch up on daily reads such as news/blogs,
check a web-based mail service, evaluate the results of a search).

With usability, then, we need to make sure that it doesn't come at the cost
of accessibility, but as a complement of accessibility. I'm not sure that
there's a consistent logical progression from accessibility to usability. At
some stage we'll probably hit a trade-off decision - usability or
accessibility. Which factor takes preference is probably largely dependant
on the situation.

(I'm in two minds in sending this, if it is just waffle like one part of my
brain tells me, my apologies).
Mike
Received on Thursday, 3 April 2003 05:06:24 GMT

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