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WCAG 2.0 - November draft - comments re. Scope of the WCAG

From: Catherine Brys <c.brys@lib.gla.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2005 16:47:21 -0000
Message-ID: <185CACB1E3412746A381E4E026529BDCBC0A8D@exchange-l.lib.gla.ac.uk>
To: "'public-comments-wcag20@w3.org'" <public-comments-wcag20@w3.org>

[based on comments relating to the July draft and submitted originally as an
anonymous contributor on 23 Nov 04]
Disclaimer: The comments below represent the personal opinion of the sender;
they do not necessarily represent the University's viewpoint.

oo Scope of the WCAG
- The scope of the document states that "the guidelines do not include
standard usability recommendations except where they have specific
ramifications for accessibility beyond standard usability impacts." However,
guideline 2.5 is a standard usability guideline. This is not an easy issue
as usability and accessibility are interwoven. However, I don't think
guideline 2.5 should be in the WCAG because it is such a general usability
guideline that if it is included, a range of other usability guidelines
should be included too. Just picking this one does not really make the
guidelines well-balanced. Maybe it would be useful to include usability
experts in the discussion and come to a joint agreement on which
usability-related guidelines should be covered in the WCAG and how they
should be worded.
I would strongly suggest avoiding the term 'user error' as some usability
people will argue that user errors do not exist - and even if some problems
are due to the user, they should not be labelled as such. It can come across
as accusatory.
Another general usability principle is providing consistent and predictable
responses to user actions, which is included in 'Who Benefits from Guideline

- On the other hand, some guidelines seem to be suggesting practices which
are questionable from a usability point of view. Usability and accessibility
should go hand in hand - how can web sites be accessible if they aren't
usable in the first place? 
Example of usability issues are:
.. Level 2 Success Criteria for Guideline 2.5: I don't quite agree with the
suggestion that actions should only be reversible if the consequences are
significant. It is good practice to make actions *always*  reversible if at
all possible - of course this is *essential* if consequences are
significant. The guidelines may be interpreted as suggesting that making
actions reversible is optional. It should be clearer that only in
exceptional, valid cases should actions be non-reversible.
.. Level 1 Success Criterion for Guideline 1.4: Only requiring that the text
can be programmatically determined implies that it is ok to require the user
to invoke some action (via a user agent or other software) to be able to
read the text. Not very usable.
.. Level 1 Success Criteria for Guideline 2.2: Allowing the options where the
user can deactivate a time limit, adjust it or is warned requires more
effort from the user than necessary.
.. Level 2 Success Criteria for Guideline 2.2: Allowing blinking text with
the option to turn it off, pause it or stop it opens again the door for
requiring more effort fro the user than necessary.
.. Level 3 Success Criteria for Guideline 2.2, Point 2: Again, allowing the
option that the user can postpone non-emergency interruptions such as
updating of content is requiring more effort than necessary from the user.
Also, interrupting with the option for the user to postpone the interruption
makes that the user is not in control - he can merely refuse interruptions
which are being forced upon him (but by this process the user is interrupted
.. Example 2 of Guideline 2.2 
Having the option to turn off updating of content in a separate 'user
preferences' part of the web site opens the door to web sites which are
accessible in theory but not in practice. Only a small percentage of users
ever change default settings. Also, it would very much depend on the rest of
the site whether or not this feature would be discoverable. For example, if
the link to the preferences section would be at the very bottom of a page,
chances are small that e.g. screen-reader users would encounter the option. 
.. Example 1 of Guideline 1.3: Users should be informed of mandatory fields
before filling out and submitting a form. This example may be interpreted as
suggesting that it is ok to flag up mandatory fields after submission.
.. Level 3 Success Criteria for Guideline 3.1 
Point 5: This opens the door for sites having statements but not being
accessible in practice. I think that the W3C should be encouraging good
practice - in deeds, not in words.
.. Level 3 Success Criteria for Guideline 2.5 
Offering 'corrections' to words the user has typed in can actually introduce
extra errors since it can lead to the user acknowledging corrections by
In general, systems which try to be too clever usually get on users' nerves.
It should be left up to the user to select an appropriate dictionary if

- Should the WCAG include guidance on writing style? I think the detailed
information under Level 3 Success Criteria for Guideline 3.1 has no place in
accessibility guidelines. Firstly, it is too much geared towards the English
language. The WCAG should strike a chord with web authors world-wide and
including English-only material will alienate these people. It also weakens
the ideal of inclusiveness which WAI is supporting. 
Secondly, and more in detail, the passage on passive voice can be contested
and again is very English-centered. Do all other languages have a passive
voice? If so, it maybe has a different role to passive voice in English and
should not be avoided. In certain languages, for example, passive voice is
used for politeness.  

Dr. Catherine M. Brys
Library Web Services Administrator
- Library Web Site Accessibility and Usability Project - 
Glasgow University Library, Hillhead Street, Glasgow, G12 8QE, Scotland, UK
e: c.brys [at] lib.gla.ac.uk
t: +44 (0)141 330 6748
w: www.lib.gla.ac.uk/accessible
Received on Monday, 10 January 2005 17:27:04 UTC

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