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Re: The Cult of Pseudo Accessibility

From: Geoff Deering <gdeering@acslink.net.au>
Date: Thu, 11 Dec 2003 09:39:15 +1100
Message-ID: <3FD7A093.3010605@acslink.net.au>
To: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@sidar.org>
Cc: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Charles McCathieNevile wrote:

> Why the big deal about Bobby? If it isn't the greatest tool, get one 
> that is better - there are plenty of others around that allow for much 
> more complex testing. Or testing for different formats - flash, word 
> documents, pdf, are all formats for which you can get tools that help 
> evaluations.

It's not my use of Bobby that is a problem. As I mentioned in the 
initial email, it is it's use by the masses creating this blanket of 
ignorance of accessibility. A tool that is meant to help is creating 
just as much harm. I do take issue at Watchfire's inability to address 
problems with this products.

> The EuroAccessibility Consortium's tools task force will be looking at 
> tools that people use, and how good a job they do compared to a detailed 
> list of what should be tested.

> It appears, in preliminary assessment, that Bobby is no longer the most 
> effective tool - particularly the free online version of it. Reviews of 
> Bobby vs CynthiaSays, and of Bobby vs. LIFT machine, are available and 
> suggest that both of those are more effective on various specific points 

CynthiaSays does a good job of what it is meant to do.

The Lift machine also overlooks some really basic stuff.  It can be as 
misleading as Bobby, and it too is a commercial product.

The WAVE is a good tool also, but most developers are used to a 
validating parser, and a lot of problem comes from not doing the basic 
validating first.  If the W3C validator finds problems and these tools 
do not doesn't that indicate something they must address first?  What is 
the point of going on to the finer points of accessibility validation 
when there are doctype errors.  This goes against all the standard 
wisdom of software quality checking.

If I am building web pages, how is a tool really helpful if it is 
overlooking these checks? This should be the first thing checked because 
there is no point going on until one does this, for sake of efficiency? 
  There's no point in working with documents if they have a declared 
doctype and are invalid, until the errors are removed because that often 
perpetuates the problem.

> - I am sure there are others. If you buy tools there are extremely 
> powerful and flexible ones available - WAI maintains a partial list at 
> http://www.w3.org/WAI/ER/existingtools at least, and I am aware of other 
> stuff out there that does a good job - if necessary by combining tools.

Some people may well know how to use these tools in ways that produce 
truly accessible sites, but the fact is that these people are truly 
knowledgeable about web accessibility, in such cases they have the 
knowledge to compensate for any tools shortcomings.  But others who are 
not, buy such products to aid their accessibility and are misled by the 
poor QA in these products.  Like Dreamweaver MX 2004 and believe that it 
will generate good quality W3C standard accessible straight out of the 
box, when in fact the code generator is not that smart, and still 
produces poor quality code that needs lots of nurturing to fix up.  I've 
grabbed it releases as it has become available and built a quick site 
from standard setup, and it has utterly disappointed me that it still 
does not build according to standards by any means of my measure that 
constitutes efficient markup.

Now, if you take for example a lot of the code generators out there on 
the market for programmers, the standards is far, far higher.  It has to 
be, because they get far more scrutiny than they do from this community. 
  I'm not saying this community is less informed, I'm just saying for 
some reason we seem willing to tolerate sub standard products more that 
anyone else.

> I think Bobby did a lot of good when Josh Krieger developed it, many 
> years ago now. I think the best tools that are available now are a lot 
> better than any of the simple free online offerings, and people should 
> be aware of it. To the extent that serious projects are still using 
> simple tools rather than looking properly at the market I agree that 
> there is a problem, and that accessibility is not doing well (nor are 
> the people who are investing in development - including watchfire - so 
> we are doing ourselves a disservice by not helping the people who are 
> helping us...).

Well I'm not happy with this.  It's a disservice to the whole community 
to not point out how Bobby has not overcome these very basic problems. 
It should show some maturity.  How old is it, at least 5 years isn't it? 
  I'm telling you straight forward that if this product was in my hands 
it would not have the problems I have pointed out.  I am certain of 
that.  They are easy problems to fix.  What is going on?  If you are 
trying to work with these people what is their problem?  I can't believe 
they are so incompetent they can neither identify or rectify these 
problems.  They are either completely slack or pulling the wool over 
your eyes if they say they are on the job.  This is a commercial 
company, not some open source developer trying to find a spare hour here 
and there to work on a project of love (who I have the utmost patience for).

Geoff Deering
Received on Wednesday, 10 December 2003 17:43:37 UTC

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