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RE: Where's Bobby? Are we left with Cynthia?

From: Stuart Smith <Stuart.M.Smith@manchester.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 2006 14:49:25 +0000
To: "w3c-wai-ig@w3.org" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20060127144925390.00000003272@MARVIN>

This whole discussion is interesting. To add my tuppence's worth. I think the whole area of accessibility for websites is focusing way too much on "meeting" the W3C Accessibility guidelines and not enough making sites usable for users with disabilities. The guidelines are very useful but they are ONLY guidelines and (as far as I am aware!) the authors have never claimed they alone met the needs of accessibility. They do however give a really good starting place.

Unfortunately, in some respects, they also allow automated testing. I have nothing against automated testing per se but because the focus of accessibility is now on the Guidelines and not on the user needs too many web developers and too many automated testing software companies think that if they can display a compliance to the Guidelines they have solved the issue.

That is a very sad thing, that users have been reduced to this. I argue that an awareness of disability needs in the design process (a very different thing to an awareness of guidelines) is far more useful. For example being an aware of the preference for people with Learning Difficulties to often receive information via multimedia and learning to balance that with the need to convey meaning equivalency of information representation for screen reader users is a real skill that the guidelines can never deliver. This awareness can be tested with real people. More costly to a certain extent - but if you produce a better web site - you stand to kill the competition - that's got to be good for the web developers reputation, hasn't it?



-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of Bryce Fields
Sent: 27 January 2006 14:09
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: Re: Where's Bobby? Are we left with Cynthia?

On 1/27/06, Martin Stehle <pewtah@snafu.de> wrote:

> > So often I have been in to see a new client and all they are 
> > concerned about is making sure they their site adheres to the Bobby 'standard'.
> > When you strat to talk to them about it is obvious that they have 
> > never heard of the W3C or WCAG.
> Of course we told our clients the limits of every automatic check. We 
> additionally included icons of companies testing websites with 
> disabled users manually. Some years ago Bobby was popular enough to 
> advertise with it. So the deal was: We built an accessible, 
> WCAG-proofed site, by the way it passed the Bobby and other tests. The 
> client was fine, the user was fine, we was fine, mission accomplished.

The problem arises though when clients start to equate the Bobby icon (or any other icon) w/ accessiblity.  Most clients, and sadly many professional web developers I've interacted with, tend to glaze over when you bring up little things like the fact that an automated system can only check so much.  I've seen many a site proudly display a Bobby icon declaring their Priority III conformance to the world, only to be dismayed to discover that something as simple as not being able to navigate the site by a keyboard (or some other item untestable by an automated system) bring their illusions of accessibility crashing back down to earth.  In my opinion, a well-planned site, w/ a link to an informative accessibility statement is far more useful and important than any icon could ever be.

We've started to think of accessibility in binary terms, either you have it or you don't.  In truth, accessibility is a continuum.  On one end is "no one can use your site regardless of their user agent of choice", and on the other is "everyone can use your site regardless of their user agent of choice".  And your site is most likely somewhere in the middle.  There's always something more you can be doing to move a site closer to the "everybody gets in" side.

Bryce Fields

"Do or do not! There is no try!" -- Yoda
Received on Friday, 27 January 2006 14:49:28 UTC

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