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RE: Font-size in WCAG 2

From: Jim Tobias <tobias@inclusive.com>
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 2004 09:05:44 -0400
Message-Id: <200408161305.i7GD5awV091532@smtp2.cedant.com>
To: "'Jesper Tverskov'" <jesper.tverskov@mail.tele.dk>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Hi Jesper,

I agree with everything you say from an implementation perspective.  It's
probably your political science background that makes you sensitive to this
issue.  It reminds me of 2 excellent books, "When Old Technologies Were New"
by Carolyn Marvin, and "The System of Professions", by Andrew Abbott....

As I see it, we are in a phase of web accessibility that challenges us in
several ways.  As web technology keeps evolving, we must stay tuned to the
potential barriers and solutions of every new technology, comment on them,
and propose standards; let's call that the "leading edge".  At the same
time, the "trailing edge" keeps growing: more developers and designers and
web managers, by the millions.  Those roles are separating out, developing
their own roles and practices, becoming separate professions.  The
technologists are no longer in complete control, but merely respond to
specifications ordered by others, in marketing, corporate communications,
etc.  In large organizations, be they companies or government agencies, web
work is becoming more highly specialized, and each role has its own
motivations and "native skill sets".  Few of these will be reachable by the
document called "WCAG 2.0", or anything remotely like it.

Something must be there to perform the leading edge workload, and right now
that is WAI.  WAI certainly hasn't ignored the outreach and training role,
but it does not have enough resources to perform that role completely.  As
the trailing edge cohort grows, there is nothing to fill the gap.  But WAI
cannot abandon the leading edge role.

Compare this with the field of medicine.  There are leading edge
researchers, who transfer knowledge to medical schools and pharmaceutical
companies.  Then there is a huge infrastructure for service delivery:
doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, pharmacists, insurance plans.  No one
expects researchers to start giving injections, even when there is a medical
crisis somewhere.

Web accessibility has no such infrastructure, nor is it ever likely to have
one.  Instead of millions of doctors, we have a few thousand gurus, and even
these don't always agree on the diagnosis or treatment!  Our gurus are
expected to do double duty: researcher and nurse.  That's not sustainable.
But we have the advantage of working within the field of information
technology.  To me, we need to use information technology to leverage our
content through audience-sensitive re-formatting.  Many have done this out
of necessity with WCAG 1.0; I'm pretty sure there has been a lot of wasted
duplication of effort; I've done it myself.  

I know the EOWG (http://www.w3.org/WAI/EO/) is attuned to this issue, and
has led the way to share best practices.  It's already planning or looking
at most of the issues you raise, and the shortage is in resources rather
than attention.

Perhaps it is time to consider how to share more fully, or even develop an
EO "Master Plan" based on a market view: how many people need to be reached
of which kind of audience in what timeframe through what channels....

Jim Tobias
Inclusive Technologies
732.441.0831 v/tty

> -----Original Message-----
> From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org 
> [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of Jesper Tverskov
> Sent: Monday, August 16, 2004 4:58 AM
> To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
> Subject: Font-size in WCAG 2
> How the proposal for WCAG 2 handles font-size, is a good 
> example of the
> main problem with the new approach to writing accessibility 
> guidelines.
> _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
> Most of us would agree that the text of a web page should 
> have a not too
> small initial font-size when the user arrives. The initial 
> font-size of
> most web pages today is too small for many users. 
> Most of us would also agree that it should be possible for the user to
> adjust the font-size in the browser, and for that reason a 
> relative unit
> should be used.
> Most of us would opt for percent or EM but since IE does not render EM
> for font-size as it should do in some cases (the smaller sizes get too
> small), it is recommended only to use percent for the time 
> being, or in
> some cases xx-small to xx-large, etc.
> _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
> How is the proposal for WCAG 2 helping us with these two very 
> important
> issues, initial font-size and relative font-size?
> None at all. The importance of a rather big initial font-size and of
> relative font-size is somehow not generic enough to be included in the
> accessibility guidelines proper.
> Since font-size is no longer a problem of HTML, we find nothing about
> the two mentioned problems in "HTML Techniques for WCAG 2.0". 
> We need to
> look in "CSS Techniques for WCAG 2.0".
> In "CSS Techniques for WCAG 2.0" we need to look under "8. 
> Fonts", here
> 8.1 talks about "Specifying fallback fonts", 8.2 is talking about
> "Specifying font characteristics", first 8.3 is talking about
> "Specifying font sizes using xx-small to xx-large".
> Important issues like initial font-size and relative font-size except
> the incomplete 8.3 are completely forgotten. But that is not the main
> problem. Hopefully the missing issues about font-size, some 
> of the most
> important issues in accessible webdesign, will be included one day.
> _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
> The main problem is that the guidelines proper are so generic, that
> almost only computer scientists specializing in accessibility 
> guidelines
> can stomach reading them, and "CSS Techniques for WCAG 2.0" is in the
> same manner written for CSS-specialist.
> How will interested users, net editors, decision-makers, and even
> general project managers of web projects ever get to know that some
> important issues concerning font-size are actually part of the
> guidelines if the issues are only listed in a very technical manner
> surrounded by scores of less important issues in a CSS manual?
> Best regards,
> Jesper Tverskov
> www.smackthemouse.com
Received on Monday, 16 August 2004 13:05:40 UTC

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