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until user agent and baseline

From: Web Usability Roger Hudson <rhudson@usability.com.au>
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2006 11:43:59 +1100
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <GGEEINFOLDEIIBPBECEMMEFMCGAA.rhudson@usability.com.au>

The discussion of  "until user agents" has extended into UAAG and the
proposed "baseline" concept for WCAG 2.0. At this stage I don't believe the
notion of a baseline addresses the problems of the catch all phrase "until
user agents". In particular, I am concerned that it could end up reducing
the accessibility of websites for some AT users, at least in the short to
medium term.

The introduction of the "baseline" could result in some web content
providers believing that it is acceptable to provide content that will be
inaccessible to some people with disabilities. It appears that under WCAG
2.0, a site developer or some higher authority (eg Government regulator) can
set a baseline using W3C and non-W3C technologies so long as there are
accessible user agents that support them.

The guidelines provide examples of assistive technologies, but there appears
to be no requirement for a nominated baseline technology to be supported by
a significant proportion of assistive technologies that are in current use.
This could result in sizable shift in the onus for accessibility away from
the site developer and proprietor and onto the users of assistive
technologies: That is, it will be up to the disabled person to obtain
(purchase) the appropriate technology to access a site, rather than the
responsibility of the site proprietor to ensure their content is accessible
to users of a wide range of current assistive technologies.

Reading of WCAG 2.0 and the Baseline Q&A page suggests that it may be
possible for a site, which uses a non-W3C technology but is accessible to
some screen reader users, to claim conformance with WCAG 2.0 even though
many screen readers users are unable to access it with their current

Roger Hudson
Received on Wednesday, 1 February 2006 00:44:07 UTC

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