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Re: Accessibility and its legal requirements

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@sidar.org>
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2003 23:37:51 +1100
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
To: "Isofarro" <w3evangelism@faqportal.uklinux.net>
Message-Id: <D4BDD8D6-26F3-11D7-B233-000A95678F24@sidar.org>

My personal thoughts...

On Tuesday, Jan 7, 2003, at 20:57 Australia/Melbourne, Isofarro wrote:

> Two issues raise stand out as contentious:
> We have a list of applications on our website allowing people to sign 
> up for
> products on line. Due to various reasons and beliefs, a number of these
> applications rely on Javascript to function - one or two use 
> Javascript to
> work out which page they need to go to next. Now checkpoint 6.3 of WCAG
> states "Ensure that pages are usable when scripts [...] are turned off 
> or
> not supported. If this is not possible, provide equivalent information 
> on an
> alternative accessible page. [Priority 1]"
> The guidance we were given was to include <noscript> content 
> indicating that
> Javascript is required for this page. Am I right in believing that 
> this is
> not sufficient to meet priority 1? In that either the page must 
> function
> without javascript, or an alternative non-javascript page must be
> supplied -- that's what's needed, not just noscript elements saying 
> "This
> page is inaccessible".

You are right - "ensure pages are usable" isn't the same as "let people 
know you are discriminating against them"...

> The second issue, which certainly seems odd to me, is the issue with 
> frames.
> There are parts of the site which are framed (into a top banner and 
> bottom
> menu, with the content in the middle). To make these pages compliant, 
> only
> Checkpoint 12.1 and 12.2 seem to be required, stating:
> "12.1 Title each frame to facilitate frame identification and 
> navigation
> "[Priority 1]"
> "12.2 Describe the purpose of frames and how frames relate to each 
> other if
> it is not obvious by frame titles alone [Priority 2]"
> So that means just putting title attributes to frame elements and 
> describe
> the purpose of frames is sufficient to make them accessible?

In my opinion it means doing that is the minimum to conform to the 
guidelines. To provide a high degree of accessibility you should also 
provide well-considered noframes content, but doing what is required at 
levels A and double-A is certainly an improvement over not doing it, 
and in some cases may be sufficient for most users.

> A thornier issue for me, and one that's tearing me to pieces at the 
> moment
> boils down to "the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law".
> Following the letter of the law involving doing the bare minimum work
> required to make a site compliant with legislature (or interpretations 
> of
> it). Spirit of the Law involving taking positive action that brings a
> website as close to full accessibility as possible.

> From what I've read about ADA and Maguire vs SOCOG, accessible 
> websites are
> expected if it can be done with reasonable cost and effort. Following 
> the
> letter of the law implies just spending the bare amount needed to 
> comply
> (but still have accessibility hiccups and kludges that could be 
> solved, but
> not needed to meet legal criteria), but the spirit of the law (making 
> things
> accessible) involves doing as much as reasonably possible, with 
> reasonable
> effort and reasonable cost to make it as accessible as possible.

In Australia the letter of the law explicitly says that if you are not 
acting in the spirit of the la then you are not considered to be 
following the law, and Maguie vs SOCOG demonstrates how that works in 
Australian law. (Especially if you don't live in Australia, but anyway) 
I suggest you read the relevant laws, the discussions here, and if 
getting an accurate opinion is important ask a lawyer. A thoughtful 
review, and including accessibility as a design constraint rather than 
an optional extra when you get sued will very often show many things 
that can be achieved which benefit users, cost little or nothing, and 
save trouble later. But how you make business decisions is something 
that your organisation needs to decide for itself...

> If a company wants to its website to be geniunely accessible, is 
> meeting the
> letter of the law sufficient? To me, meeting the letter of the law is 
> the
> same as settling for second best (or doing half measures) -- am I just 
> being
> too idealistic?

That depends on the letter of the law - as I point out above the letter 
of the Australian law requires that you make things accessible, not 
just that you conform to a handful of rules, although those are 
presented when recognised as the best information available to help you 
ensure accessibility, and if you don't implement them it is hard to 
demonstrate that you are even approaching the question in good faith. 
Your mileage may vary in different countries or legal jurisdictions.

If the letter of the law provides for loopholes which allow someone to 
provide an inaccessible service, then you are of course right. And in 
practical terms I do not know of a perfect system without such 
loopholes at some level. I don't think you are being idealistic, I 
think you are approaching the question with a good deal of common sense.

just my 2 australian cents worth...

Charles McCathieNevile           charles@sidar.org
Fundación SIDAR                       http://www.sidar.org
Received on Monday, 13 January 2003 07:38:28 UTC

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