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Re: WAI: Threat or Menace?

From: <Svgdeveloper@aol.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2002 15:17:18 EDT
Message-ID: <1ad.719f56f.2a93efbe@aol.com>
To: kynn@idyllmtn.com, www-style@w3.org, www-tag@w3.org, tbray@textuality.com
In a message dated 20/08/2002 18:56:30 GMT Daylight Time, kynn@idyllmtn.com 

> At 3:52 AM -0400 8/20/02, Svgdeveloper@aol.com wrote:
> >2. The Web Accessibility Initiative, as currently formulated, may be 
> >potentially harmful to the future development of the Web
> I don't see this at all.  Rather, the Web Accessibility Initiative is
> having to deal with very real problems and is attempting to come to a
> solution for those.

Hi Kynn,

I won't respond just now to each of your points in detail. However, I would 
like to say that you raise several issues which correpond to some of my 
background concerns. I was saying "You don't seem to be (nearly) there guys" 
and you are saying "We are working on it".  ... So that sounds promising. :)

So we can agree, I think, that WAI is at a relatively early stage of 
development and there are significant technical issues to be addressed?

[Disclaimer: The comments which follow are based on a part reading of 
relevant WAI documents. I did say I saw a potential issue and would, in the 
ordinary course of events, if Tim hadn't tried to censor further discussion 
on the TAG list, have teased these issues out step by step after further 
research on my part. They are also pretty direct, not in order to provoke, 
but to put on the table the street cred (or lack of it) of WAI.]

One substantive problem that I see with existing WAI documents is that they 
read as if each and every guideline/point was of 100% importance and that 
there is no prioritisation. That seems to me be an inherently unrealistic 
position to take, even if it is only taken implicitly.

When people are losing their jobs by the thousands you need, in my opinion, 
to prioritise if you want to be taken seriously.

To implicitly claim that *all* WAI is of absolute importance generates a 
feeling that the mindset isn't realistic.

To be taken more seriously I think that WAI have to give consideration to 
prioritising suggested approaches. To do that I think WAI needs to examine 
the technical issues and develop a better understanding of what is possible 
in the short term and what is possible strategically.

I think WAI needs a better developed conceptual framework for what it is 
doing. That is one reason I raised the "What is Semantics" thread. I think we 
need to tease out which aspects of "semantics" we are trying to capture and 
then convey to all users. If we understand the aspects of "semantics" better 
we can have more informed, and hopefully less confrontational discussions.

I don't know why I get myself into the position of expressing what people 
don't want to hear but it seems I do .... The street cred of WAI is low 
because it comes across as absolutist and missionary. The comment by Tim that 
it is "immoral" not to take heed to WAI is an example of how WAI comes 
across. Credibility on the street for comments like that is zero. They also 
generate a lot of hostility in people who thereafter simply will refuse to 
listen. So, in my view at least, there is significant existing damage to be 

Secondly, WAI comes across to some extent as fossilized in an HTML mindset. I 
appreciate that there is an August 2001 set of XML guidelines in draft. 
Nothing since publicly available.

Still with me I hope. :) 

I am saying these things directly to emphasise the importance of improving 
WAI, in part by giving it a much more explicit and well-thought-through 
conceptual underpinning.

That is one reason why I raised the "What is Semantics" thread as a formal 
issue for TAG to consider.

If we can sensibly and intelligently consider the various aspects of 
semantics that various parts of existing and emerging technologies provide 
(or fail to provide) then we can then more sensibly identify which can 
effectively be harnessed - for example in WAI.

I hope that helps you understand a little more about where I am coming from. 
I am not antagonistic to a well-thought WAI. I want to see it improve. If we 
develop a better understanding of semantics we are all better equipped going 
forward, in my view.

Andrew Watt
Received on Tuesday, 20 August 2002 15:18:07 UTC

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