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Re: ACollab Work Groups 1.1 Content accessible?]

From: Kassia Krozser <ktwice@pandemic.com>
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2004 09:00:43 -0700
Message-ID: <40D311AB.7060802@pandemic.com>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

David Woolley wrote:
  > A pre-requisite for this is that authors use the styles, defined by 
Word,
> to mark up the document properly, which means that the authors still have
> to understand structural markup, and not operate in a lazy WYSIWYG mode.
> I don't know how well this markup is reflected into the HTML generated
> by Word, but I believe that Acrobat uses it to create tagged PDF, which
> is essentially an HTML structural overlay on the page description.
> This is more or less the same as for direct HTML authoring; that can,
> and more often than not, is done in a non-structural way.

There are two issues with this. First, of course, is that an entire 
generation of word processor users have been taught to operate in 
WYSIWYG mode. To them, this isn't a lazy approach; it's how they learned 
to use the tools. And it suits their purposes just fine, so why would 
they change what they do? Re-educating these users would be a massive 
and probably expensive proposition. In an informal poll I did (basically 
people in my circle of acquaintance, but all very experienced computer 
users), I discovered I was the only person to use styles at all. The 
concept was greeted with blank stares.

Second is that, even using styles, you don't get good HTML (my partner 
says it is well formed in that tags are closed, etc, but it's not good 
HTML. To understand what I mean, you need to view the HTML for a Word 
document). And when you convert a semantically correct Word document to 
PDF, the resulting HTML is not necessarily right. Going into the PDF tag 
editor to do clean-up is not easy -- a five minute project can stretch 
to thirty or longer. I went through this on a report we recently issued, 
and, as Joe Clark pointed out (though I did already know it), there were 
a few minor accessibility issues. I couldn't fix them in the PDF markup, 
and, after researching for a while, think perhaps I know the solution. 
But I have the time and inclination to put forth this effort. Most 
people who work day-to-day on websites don't.

This is a real world issue that has to be addressed if businesses (and 
I'm including government agencies) are going to include accessibility in 
their web routines. They're not anti-accessibility, but there are a lot 
of hoops to jump through that don't need to be there. The commonly used 
tools should provide better support; so much burden is placed on 
developers and web professionals, but when you get down to it, most 
websites are managed by  people who don't know HTML from the bold button 
in Word.


> Creating valid HTML, in the sense that it passes the W3C Validator, is
> a relatively mechanical process.  Creating semantically valid HTML
> from a purely physical document is an AI problem.

I agree that creating valid HTML is a mechanical process...if you know 
HTML. Most people don't; this why I believe commonly used tools must be 
better at creating standards-based HTML documents. For a recent 
government project we did, the "webmaster" was a person who had never 
touched a website in her life. She wasn't particularly well-trained in 
Word, doesn't know Excel, and thought PowerPoint was a great way to 
present document outlines -- and yet maintaining the website was to be 
her job (in addition to her regular job, which requires her to be out of 
the office most of the day). She's learned a lot about HTML, but only as 
it relates to her day-to-day site updates. She's not particularly 
interested in web development or learning more than she needs to about 
the Internet.

This is a common website manager. This is the person who needs education 
and good tools. We've done the education part as much as possible, but 
cannot change the fact that the tools used in her organization don't 
help the process. I feel a bit like I'm up on a soapbox, but we face 
this issue every day, and find the desire for accessible websites exists 
in our clients, but the realities they face complicates the matter.

Kassia Krozser
Pandemic Media
ktwice@pandemic.com
(626) 791-5852
Received on Friday, 18 June 2004 12:00:57 UTC

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