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RE: The future of WCAG - maximising its strengths not its weaknesses

From: John Foliot <john@foliot.ca>
Date: Tue, 8 Jan 2013 09:43:38 -0800
To: <accessys@smart.net>, "'Dr Jonathan Hassell'" <jonathanhassell@yahoo.co.uk>
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <002701cdedc7$b2f248b0$18d6da10$@ca>
accessys@smart.net wrote:
> the feed back I have heard is mostly in two catagories.
> 1. I don't/can't/won't understand it, it is over my head, way too
> complicated etc etc.   part of this stems from the fact that websites
> are
> now being made more and more often by the lesser trained people who are
> becoming webmasters.

I will challenge that assertion strongly: what evidence do you have to back
that claim?  

Perhaps if it a function of where I live today (Bay Area/Silicon Valley),
but I am seeing less and less of the hand-rolled, simplistic web content you
allude to today. For those content creators who simply wish to "publish"
they are using sophisticated Content Management Systems (from WordPress to
Drupal), either self-hosted or SAS (Blogger.com, WordPress.com, etc.) These
systems, whether open source of not, are developed not by individuals, but
by teams of developers all contributing to a larger 'offering'. 

Lots of people want to be web developers today, and large firms can pick and
choose talent (however they measure it) to work on these offerings, and even
in the Open Source community, given the sheer number of potential
contributors to popular projects, the bar is often set very high by those
who can commit changes to the main trunk.

Modern Web development today is far past the hobbyist stages.

>   The web is being used much more casually and has a lot more "do it
> yourselfers" involved.
>   The commercial webmaking products for the "Do it yourselfer" or
> mostly
> glossing over the or even ignoring access. 

Once again, I challenge you to back up that claim with proof. 

I'm not suggesting that *every* tool is a paragon of ultimate accessibility,
but Open Source projects such as Drupal
(http://drupal.org/about/accessibility) and WordPress
(http://codex.wordpress.org/Accessibility) have made great strides in
improving their accessibility: they get it enough to know and understand the
importance of it.

Developer tools, such as the extremely popular jQuery UI (as well as YUI3,
Dojo and similar JS Libraries) have incorporated ARIA into their core
libraries (with jQuery, the community modules are another story), but once
again the tools for the less informed developers are being made better by
professional web engineers who *do* understand the engineering issues, even
if they sometimes lack the total empathy that a PWD might have.

Instead, I think the real challenge is working with the next-generation of
web-offerings, the so-called web applications, which have brought a lot of
efficient (yet at times challenging, from the accessibility perspective)
web-delivered applications to the masses. From Social Media tools (FaceBook,
Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) to on-line shopping (Amazon, eBay, etc.), to
interacting with your local government, school, bank, church... The world is
certainly going digital, and those firms and start-ups often miss the
accessibility opportunities that they have (often in a rush to be
'first-to-market'): they see accessibility not so much as a core
requirement, but rather an enhancement or feature request. *THAT*, more than
anything else, is to me the biggest problem we face in 2013.

> Or it is in a seperate
> "chapter" that many just skip over.  it is still not mainstream.(our
> work/fault)

It may not yet be "Mainstream", but we are getting there.  I work for a
large (non-web) organization as part of the Corporate Internet Group, and I
can tell you first hand that I can sit in on conference calls as the
Accessibility SME almost daily, and I can't count how many times others on
the call will call out Accessibility questions before I even get a chance.
The Education and Outreach mission of WCAG/WAI remains the one area that we
need to stay focused on - here we agree: we still have a lot of teaching to
do, but I for one am starting to see the chickens come home to roost.

> 2. The users are not keeping up or understanding or being involved
> enough

Here, I will agree. 

Not more than a few weeks ago there was a very heated exchange on this same
list about some users expecting to have full access to entire web-based
applications, yet at the same time refusing to use tools (many of them quite
accessible) produced to interact with that same content - instead
steadfastly clinging to text-only web browsers. Those users can wring their
hands in angst and lament the fact that the web is now a fully interactive
application delivery platform, but if they refuse to keep up with those
advances it is both their choice and loss.

I do not want to re-open that discussion here (as frankly, I've already said
all I can say on that topic, and those who disagree with me are fairly
entrenched in their perspective), but yes Bob, we agree, some "...users are
not keeping up or understanding".

> in the creation of the document,  the testers being used are for the
> most
> part fairly computer literate and don't adequately represent the true
> nature of the population that needs and/or uses the output documents
> and
> websites.

Can you provide us evidence of this assertion?

> I try but am still guilty of the above.  but rather than placing blame
> how
> can we find a way to make this document understandable to the "masses"
> and
> how do we get it used by even the most inexperienced part time
> webmaster,

Education. It is my opinion that this remains the single largest task before
us. We've come a fair way in the 12-odd years I've been doing this (and with
the luxury of that backward perspective, trust me, we have), but we still
have a long way to go. Our educational efforts must continue, and as part of
that journey we must be very careful in how we educate: statements such as
"it must work in Lynx or it isn't accessible" will shut down ears, eyes and
other channels of communication to that wider developer/owner landscape
faster than screaming fire in a theater will empty seats. How we say things,
and how we frame the discussion, is critical to future successes.

Just my $0.05 Canadian (as Canada is doing away with pennies <grin>)

Received on Tuesday, 8 January 2013 17:44:18 UTC

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