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Re: ACollab Work Groups 1.1 Content accessible?]

From: Kassia Krozser <ktwice@pandemic.com>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 00:09:41 -0700
Message-ID: <40D143B5.9040503@pandemic.com>
To: WAI <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

ATutor wrote:
> Forcing authors to make their content accessible, though perhaps 
> desirable, is not practical from a business perspective. If they don't 
> like being forced, they will use someone else product that does not 
> force accessibility upon them. There has to be legislation to enforce 
> this type of requirement. You're better off making the accessibility 
> tools available, and informing your users, than forcing them to abide 
> (in most cases).

I have to disagree with this statement -- "forcing" accessibility on
content authors won't drive them to other products. We work with a lot
of municipalities, and staff understand accessibility issues and want to
conform. The barriers we see are in the commonly used tools -- most
content our clients create is done with MS Word because the content is
often used for multiple purposes. The content creators we work with are
not web professionals, nor is website management their full-time job.
When they see the HTML created by Word, they don't know if it's valid
and clean or not. They are juggling multiple responsibilities, and,
often, spending time hand coding web documents isn't practical.

The problem arises when, for example, the City Clerk's staff has to copy
and paste an agenda from a Word document, while meeting a deadline, not
to mention answering calls and dealing with face-to-face issues. The
pasted HTML is, to put it politely, a mess. There are some tools out
there that help web-based content management systems clean up the HTML,
but they're not foolproof. Or the Clerk may post a PDF or Word document
for sake of ease or formatting -- most people are not well-trained in
marking up these documents (and, frankly, even if you do know how use
Word/Acrobat properly, the results still require considerable tweaking
before they're valid). The issue is not lack of concern for
accessibility, it's barriers in tools.

We can, and do, teach proper mark-up. After the design phase has made
the site as accessible as is humanly possible, the real problems lie in
the content creation. In the physical world, there are aspects of
accessibility that do not require constant and active maintenance; on a
website, attention must be paid to each and every content item. But,
from a realistic perspective, most people are going to do the
copy-and-paste routine. Sometimes it's from laziness; sometimes it's due
to a wide variety of limitations they face. It is my belief that if Word
(and other content creation tools) could create clean, standards-based
HTML (and if you know how to do this easily, I'm very interested), then
a major accessibilty barrier as far as content creation is achieved.

Legislation may help, but I suspect, in the United States, it would be a
long and arduous (not to mention expensive) process. Tools that make it
easier to create valid HTML, combined with better education. We find
that outside the accessibility community, this remains a fairly obscure
issue unless, like with municipalities, there is knowledge or need to
conform with Section 508, and even then, it's not well understood.

Kassia Krozser
Pandemic Media
(626) 791-5852
Received on Thursday, 17 June 2004 03:09:55 UTC

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