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Lawyers, angels and pinheads Re: Who needs what

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@sidar.org>
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2004 16:18:51 +0300
To: "RUST Randal" <RRust@covansys.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <opsdakppngw5l938@widsith.local>

On Wed, 25 Aug 2004 08:04:19 -0400, RUST Randal <RRust@COVANSYS.com> wrote:

> Alastair Campbell wrote:
>
>> Can machine testable rules predict the performance of users
>> accomplishing tasks on a web site?
>
> In my mind, you are talking about usability, not accessibility.

Ah. This is a genuine difference of opinion about what we mean. In my  
mind, if a person does not have the same opportunity to use some service  
because of a disability, there is an access problem. That may arise from  
some very technical point, like coding, or from a less favourable  
situation arising when you are using an assistive technology. For what it  
is worth, this is analagous to what lawyers recognise - you can  
discriminate against a person by having 10 steps nto your restaurant, or  
by not ever coming to ask what they want to order.

>> By all means categorise checkpoints into things that can be tested
>> automatically, and things that need human interpretation. However, we
>> should not get rid of the human element.
>
> I agree. I do think that the human element is important, but that those
> decisions should be left up to the designer or developer. WCAG should
> provide suggestions in this area, but not Guidelines. The Guidelines
> should deal strictly with keeping the use of W3C technologies
> accessible.

Again, we disagree. Sidar gets asked by governments, compaines,  
individuals, how to make their web content accessible. Whether it is W3C  
technology based or not. We certainly want the guidelines to cover things  
beyond simple coding stuff, because like Alistair we don't think machine  
testing alone can be of sufficient value to cover asccessibility. We have  
worked in WAI, in EuroAcessibility and within Sidar towards clearer and  
more consistent interpretetation of WCAG (mostly WCAG 1, which we have  
found is pretty good, and is the relevant standard for the moment in  
Europe and South America).

> If WCAG continues to be ambiguous, it will only serve to cause further
> confusion over accessibiliy.

One of the coonfusions I have is why there is not more effort to resolve  
the apparent ambiguities in WCAG 1 - the working group could, if it chose,  
answer the questions that come up and this would help us all.

> People will look to WCAG as the predecessor for all other
> accessibility rules and see that the they are not clear.

Actually I don't see this as a huge concern, IF there is agreement on how  
to apply them in practice.

> Lawyers for the
> defense will make the case that a web site cannot possibly follow a set
> of outdated, confusing guidelines. And they will win on that.
...
> Is this a guess? Of course. But in the United States, lawyers live for
> finding loopholes in the rules.

I strongly suggest that you take a lawyer or two out for a long boozy  
lunch and get them to chat about this. As lawyers will tell you, "the law  
is an Ass" (in the original english sense, meaning donkey - the american  
"ass" is an odd spelling of a word you can find in Chaucer spelled arse)  
but it might be a surprise how effective it is overall, in practice. (Yes,  
there are wierd edge cases, because it deals with the real world and is  
applied by people).

>> Having best practices is an essential part of writing the
>> best possible
>> guidelines. Perhaps this involves re-writing the bridge or techniques
>> documents rather than the technology-agnostic guidelines?
>
> Why not make the bridge techniques the Guidelines? They deal strictly
> with the W3C technologies, and that would fit everything together very
> nice.

I would certainly agree that the guidelines need to include the  
technology-specific stuff for W3C technologies in rder to be useful. But I  
think they also need to include the general principles, so we can see how  
to apply them analgously to some other technology.
And I forget who wrote

If you can tick every WCAG box and deliver a site that is fundamentally  
unusable - in a practical rather than technical sense) by an AT or
browser, then that is a failure to deliver an accessible site. The level  
of accessibility is determined by the proportion of users able to
use the site - not the degree of compliance with non-existent standards.

There is nothing you can do about this unless you are prepared to say 'all  
sites must do this or they are inaccessible'. And when the people
on this list can't agree what compliance with guideline 1.1 of WCAG 1.0  
means in practice, I don't believe that we this either achievable or
desirable.

CMN
Funnily enough, although we might disagree on exactly the best way to  
implement 1.1, it seems that we find it pretty easy to agree in pracctice  
whether something meets the checkpoint or not. And we can even explain it,  
without reference to code, in ways simple enough for lawyers to get it.  
This gives me a lot of hope...

cheers

Chaals


-- 
Charles McCathieNevile         charles@sidar.org
FundaciĆ³n Sidar             http://www.sidar.org
Received on Wednesday, 25 August 2004 14:19:26 UTC

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