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Re: WAI: Threat or Menace?

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2002 13:01:42 -0700
Message-Id: <a0510100db9884df0af48@[10.0.1.9]>
To: Svgdeveloper@aol.com, www-style@w3.org, www-tag@w3.org, tbray@textuality.com

At 3:17 PM -0400 8/20/02, Svgdeveloper@aol.com wrote:
>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?

I don't think it's a case of WAI being at an early stage of development,
but of XML being at that early stage.  Which is actually a good thing,
because the accessibility concerns can be built in from the get-go
(they aren't built into XML 1.0, so I guess I mean it's stilly early
in the XML race).

>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.

I'm afraid I don't understand.  Nearly all WAI documents, such as WCAG
1.0, are prioritized on a Priority 1, Priority 2, and Priority 3 scheme.

I am trying to be nice here, but I am taken a bit aback when you say you
have done due dilligence on the topic and somehow have missed the extensive
prioritization system in WAI documents.

>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.

I disagree that the "street cred of WAI is low" -- in fact, I think you
can find people far more receptive to accessibility concerns than you
can to the use of XHTML or "generic XML" on the Web.

>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 repaired.

Why do you feel that the moral argument is inappropriate here?  I
actually feel that it's entirely appropriate to point out that many of
the "purely technological" considerations of the Web are actually
decisions which can have moral (and legal) consequences on the Web
accessibility by people with disabilities.

I agree that hostility is inevitable; there are many people who still
believe, in the 21st century, that it is okay to discriminate against
those with disabilities.  Hostility remains a way of life for many
disabled individuals, and attempts to use the Web are clearly met with
hostility _regardless of what the WAI may or may not say_.

The idea of creating a Web that everyone can use, not just any specific
elites, is threatening to those among the elite.  I am not convinced
that this is proof that the "street cred" is suffering, though.  In
fact, I have seen a huge increase in the last four years of awareness
of accessibility issues among Web developers, policymakers, authors
of Web development books, and creators of authoring tools -- an
increase in awareness which is DIRECTLY attributable to the efforts of
the Web Accessibility Initiative at W3C.

>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.

The WCAG 1.0 guidelines are heavily HTML-centric, yes, because of the
historical time at which they were developed.  The WCAG 2.0 guidelines
(drafts available) are explicitly designed to be less so, and markup
language agnostic whenever possible.

>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.

I don't believe that the Web Accessibility Initiative is actually
missing what you claim it's missing.  I believe it _is_ well-thought-out
and very explicit, and people within WAI are dealing with a huge number
of issues and coming up with solutions.  WAI is far from holding back
the development of the Web -- it is on the front lines of the growth
and is making an invaluable contribution to the 21st century Web.

--Kynn

-- 
Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                 http://kynn.com
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain            http://idyllmtn.com
Next Book: Teach Yourself CSS in 24       http://cssin24hours.com
Kynn on Web Accessibility ->>          http://kynn.com/+sitepoint
Received on Tuesday, 20 August 2002 16:05:28 GMT

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