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

From: Patrick H. Lauke <redux@splintered.co.uk>
Date: Tue, 31 Jan 2006 08:47:23 +0000
Message-ID: <43DF241B.1040600@splintered.co.uk>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

Myhill, Carl S (GE Infra, Energy) wrote:

> I guess for me, 1. is the biggest issue since it tells me how far I have
> got with accessibility according the the validator and to my best
> efforts at the manual checks. For a long time I was surprised that
> people would cheat the validator to get a Priority 3 level of
> compliance. The excellent 'diveintoaccessibility', at one time, had an
> empty string as the default text in it's search box. Without a string
> there this should have failed level 3. But the empty string seemed
> disingenuous. It allowed the automatic check to pass at level 3 but
> broke the guideline the rule was trying to enforce. This kind of thing
> does nothing to help the credibility of badges.

Yes, in fact the default value should have been left out completely, as 
the guideline this refers to is *obsolete* (the "Until user agents..." 
part is satisfied). However, try telling an automated dumb tool 
that...it will flag it as an error, when it's accepted throughout most, 
if not all, accessibility circles that it's an irrelevant guideline 
(even got people from W3C WAI to say it).

>>From this discussion
> ====================
> - lots of people point out the limitation of guidelines and automatic
> validators preferring instead the human expert. This worries me. How do
> you hire such an expert who knows more than the guidelines do about all
> kinds of disabilities and accessibility issues?

Not "more than the guidelines", but "more than dumb automated checkers". 
A clear difference. And the guidelines are very often subjective. Again, 
you *need* a knowledgeable human tester in any case...a dumb automated 
checker alone is not enough. You can have a site that passes automated 
validation and is still fundamentally inaccessible.

> - 'a full blown accessibility statement is better than some icons'.
> Again, you need to trust that your expert knows everything they need to.
> Why not have an accessibilty statement which also includes the badges to
> prove the basic automatic testing has been done too?

But, as I said above, passing an automated test does not mean a site is 
accessible. So it's a pretty useless statement...it's like saying "I 
spell-checked my document!" when the document itself is complete and 
utter nonsense, but correctly spelled nonsense.

> - some people have said the WCAG badges are better and more honest.
> Whilst I do use them, they worry me because I know how easy it is to
> make a mistake and make something inaccessible from some markup
> problems. These badges seem to me that I'm saying, 'I've read the
> guidelines and believe this website meets them'. This is insufficient
> for me, I want to prove it! If only to myself. 

But even if you're using something like Bobby, you *need* to run human 
checks, which requires you to have read the guidelines and evaluate the 
points that the automated check can't verify...and also, you need to 
manually check that the automated checks are not actually false 
positives or false negatives. So there's no difference in the modus 
operandi. If anything, a "Bobby approved" badge suggests that you only 
trusted the automated check, full stop.

> - Saying "this site is accessible and doesnt need a badge to say so"
> sounds quite arrogant to me. It sounds like any one of us can just, from
> our expertise, say, 'oh yeah, this is accessible'. 

But again, that's what happens when you put a Bobby badge on, as it 
implies that you did make the human checks and, to the best of your 
knowledge, the site passed.

> - "fully accessible WCAG III is darned hard to do" - disagree. It's a
> bit tricky perhaps but what's wrong with level II if you have learned
> something along the way and know why you are at level 2?

Re-read some of the Priority 3 things (and even Priority 2). Does your 
site cater for sending its content to the user in their preferred 
language, for instance? If not, you can't really claim AAA according to 
the letter of the guideline.

Patrick H. Lauke
re·dux (adj.): brought back; returned. used postpositively
[latin : re-, re- + dux, leader; see duke.]
www.splintered.co.uk | www.photographia.co.uk
Web Standards Project (WaSP) Accessibility Task Force
Received on Tuesday, 31 January 2006 08:47:25 UTC

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