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Re: until user agent and baseline

From: David Poehlman <david.poehlman@handsontechnologeyes.com>
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2006 07:55:37 -0500
Message-Id: <4F9411E4-3441-454B-B65C-2B2AE3DF08E4@handsontechnologeyes.com>
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
To: Web Usability Roger Hudson <rhudson@usability.com.au>

Roger and all,

It sounds to me like wcag 2.0 is attempting to retrofit at least  
section 508 us law.  Their standards deliberately circumvented the  
until clauses claiming that standards must be more concrete.  This  
has already had a major impact on site usability though the sites in  
question are "compliant" with the standards.  The emphasis is not  
user centered.  It's driven by forces similar to other development of  
consumer services and products, that of what the industry and large  
entities will accept.

When I began working in this field, the question came down to what  
the user needed to happen in order for the playing field to be  
leveled.  It seems that we are now in the realm of what needs to  
happen to satisfy the big players.  Of course liike every rule,  
havingg said this, it is not always the case and often is not.  Those  
developpers out there who have continued to persue consumer centric  
results know who you are and there are quite a few of you.  Even some  
of the work I am now doing is reflective of continuance of user  
centrism but has been at least slightly hampered by The new code of  

When we develop instructions which will bbecome the basis for  
standards, we need to be quite clear to provide instructions which  
will fully benefit those who have the issues we are instructing in  
how to solve rather than providing instructions on how standards may  
be developped which satisfy another bbottom line.  This is a  
difficult position because it becomes a higher order task of  
persuasion.  Set the bar too high and fewer will jump for it.  Set  
the bar to low and we achieve nothing.  I say this though.  We live  
in a real world where the future is forked.  In one direction, there  
are a growing number of smart technologies which will take just about  
anything you throw at them and "fix" it up for you.  On the other  
fork, technology is advancing without this powerful feature set and  
that is unlikely to stop in the near future.  If we attempt to force  
consumers to buy technology they cannot afford in order to do a  
relatively small part of their work with, we will loose them.

If for instance, I'm listening to something using an audio  
interactive device such as a telephone, unless the text input area  
tells me what I'm supposed to do with it, I will probbably never  
know.  Unless there is noscript content which is meaningfull, I will  
probabbly never get the content inside that script because my device  
will never support scripting.

In summary then, We were once asked to contemplate two processes for  
guideline development, the real world and what mightt be.  At the  
time, I was not equipped to fully contemplate this to a relevant  
conclusion.  Now though, havingg had the experience of using new  
technology on the web which does not support advanced techniques and  
is likely never to do so, I can say that the world of what *will* be  
and the world that is, are both the same.  Take a look at what we  
have today, Lynx, Links, Elinks, Ie 5.0, Ns 6.x, Jaws and window eyes  
a few versions back say for instance, 5.1 for jaws.  Browsing the  
internet via phone with technologies developped a few years ago.  We  
still have no user agent which can claim conformance with any level  
of UAAG.  There are a lot of web developers out there who want to do  
the right thing if only they knew what that was.  I've got schools  
all over maryland that if wcag 2.0 were implemented today on their  
sites, would probably loose a good portion of their audience.  Using  
wcag 1.0, there are issues and many of them have been uncovered in  
the erratta and we're a long way from being perfect.  We do neeed  
though to be cognacent of what is really out there now and what is  
coming and folk, it's more of the same plus that other neat stuff  
that won't be reachable by a huge number of folk for quite a while if  
ever.  Jaws and window eyes are expensive not just in money but in  
other ways and you need an increasingly powerful computer in order to  
take advantage of all the growing number of bells and whistles.   
Think user and ask yourself, "is what I am proposing going to work  

Jonnie Apple Seed
With his:
Hands-On Technolog(eye)s

On Jan 31, 2006, at 7:43 PM, Web Usability Roger Hudson wrote:

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  
user agents". In particular, I am concerned that it could end up  
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  
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  
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  
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  
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 12:55:52 UTC

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