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Re: The Cult of Pseudo Accessibility

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@sidar.org>
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2003 19:15:28 +1100
Cc: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
To: gdeering@acslink.net.au
Message-Id: <03A11E67-2AE9-11D8-83FB-000A958826AA@sidar.org>

Hi Geoff,

Bobby is not alone in missing out various tests - in fact it is 
difficult to know all the things that should be tested, so it is not 
surprising that tool developers have different opinions even before the 
problems faced in actually implementing them are taken into account.

There has been an interesting discussion in the last day or so on the 
Accesoweb (spanish) list about Coca-Cola, who launched an "accessible" 
version of their spanish website. Clearly they have tested it with TAW 
and Bobby, and have not detected the problems that come up even at 
level-A. To be fair, these are problems that are not really identified 
in the tool tests, nor in the documentation, although they are fairly 
serious ones. (On the other hand it is nice to see a company like 
Coca-Cola España is making a serious effort...)

There is a forum - the Evaluation and Repair Tools group, where people 
discuss precisely how to do testing and what tools should do, and 
developers such as Bobby's Michael Cooper are active participants in 
this area. (Chus Garcia, developer of TAW, speaks spanish and 
participates in discussions through Sidar where we have people who 
follow both groups).

But most important are the techniques themselves - the WCAG group has 
not really been inundated with tests that can be applied, which means 
they haven't published documents sufficiently complete to enable tool 
developers to get really good guidance. And most of what they have has 
come from a handful of developers. We the people can contribute this 
material, which would make a big difference.

The EuroAccessibility Consortium's goal is to harmonise web 
accessibility testing in Europe through consistent interpretation of 
WCAG at a detailed level. It has therefore been working on a checklist 
for WCAG where each aspect of each checkpoint is called out. Sidar has 
been participating in that work, because we believe that it will 
provide a great deal of valuable input to WCAG (and because we like the 
aspect of EuroAccessibility's rules that specifically recognises WAI as 
the technical authority where decisions should be made, rather than 
promoting further fragmentation of standards and approaches). Sidar has 
also been active chairing the EuroAccessibility group on testing tools, 
and we expect to see some major improvements, although we recognise 
that software development often takes some time.

I share the frustration of seeing people rely on poorly-used tools as a 
substitute for thinking. Although from time to time I am scathing about 
the cavalier attitude to people, and the clear lack of professionalism 
that this shows, I am also aware that many people trying to develop 
accessible content are not professional web developers but experts in a 
particular field trying to do their best with limited tools. Worse, 
many of them do not have the resources to use the good but not free 
tools which are available.

It isn't a cult of pseudo-accessibility that concerns me, but a cult of 
"accessibility only if it costs nothing and requires no effort or 
thinking or learning". Often (but not always) accessibility is 
trivially easy and has negligible cost when included by a professional. 
To avoid even that minimal effort strikes me as reflecting badly on 
developers. (In Australia it is also against the law, but we live in a 
special place <grin/>).

And I hope that we do get better tools, and that people use them. It's 
tough on the bleeding edge...

cheers

Chaals

On Wednesday, Dec 10, 2003, at 14:15 Australia/Melbourne, Geoff Deering 
wrote:
[some snipped]
> Why is it with all these years in development Bobby does not detect 
> basic problems in markup that a good parser should be able to detect. 
> Why after all this time does it not detect a page full of empty 
> elements
>
> This is what strikes me about a lot of compliance, its the art of 
> throwing junk markup at a sub standard parser that is creating a Cult 
> of Pseudo Accessibility.  The sub standard validators / accessibility 
> parser are doing just as much to harm real accessibility as they are 
> in trying to aid it.
>
> How much is this type of thing supporting a culture of ignorance where 
> sub standard accessibility validators encourage and perpetuate a Cult 
> of Pseudo Accessibility Design whose designers follow the new version 
> of the old school browser and parser tricks school of development.
--
Charles McCathieNevile                          Fundación Sidar
charles@sidar.org                                http://www.sidar.org
Received on Wednesday, 10 December 2003 03:16:22 GMT

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