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Apparent discrepancy between the normative text and the "Understanding" document for WCAG 1.4.5

From: <noreply@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2013 14:57:02 +0000
Message-Id: <E1USTnC-0006V0-2s@crusher.w3.org>
To: public-comments-wcag20@w3.org
Name: Matthew Tylee Atkinson and Gez Lemon
Email: matkinson@paciellogroup.com
Affiliation: The Paciello Group
Document: UW
Item Number: Understanding Success Criterion 1.4.5
Part of Item: Intent
Comment Type: technical
Summary of Issue: Apparent discrepancy between the normative text and the "Understanding" document for WCAG 1.4.5
Comment (Including rationale for any proposed change):
We have been working with a client that uses images of text extensively on buttons.  Our interpretation of guideline 1.4.5 is that this is actively discouraged.  However, in the case of logotypes ("essential" presentation elements) the requirement may be lifted.  "Essential" is defined as: "if removed, would fundamentally change the information or functionality of the content, and information and functionality cannot be achieved in another way that would conform".

However, the interpretation in the "Intent of this Success Criterion" section of the "Understanding" document [1] appears significantly looser.  Specifically there is a sentence that states the following.

"If for any reason, the author cannot format the text to get the same effect, the effect won't be reliably presented on the commonly available user agents, or using a technology to meet this criterion would interfere with meeting other criterion such as 1.4.4, then an image of text can be used. This includes instances where a particular presentation of text is essential to the information being conveyed, such as type samples, logotypes, branding, etc. Images of text may also be used in order to use a particular font that is either not widely deployed or which the author doesn't have the right to redistribute, or to ensure that the text would be anti-aliased on all user agents." [1]

Not having the right to redistribute a font and cross-platform font issues are reasonable exceptions, but is it really "essential" for, for example, "Next" or "Close" buttons in a process to have a particular esoteric font?  Our client picked up on the key phrases: "If for any reason" and "such as type samples, logotypes, branding, etc."  As a result, branding justification was given as a reason for exempting all buttons from meeting 1.4.5.  We do not feel this is the intention of the guideline but, when presented with this non-normative, but still official, advice, we were unable to defend the stance against such images of text.

The site we are referring to is a utilitarian business site, featuring form-based processes.  Strong and instantly-recognisable branding is achieved through colour throughout the site (including button backgrounds) at no accessibility cost.  The buttons to which we are referring feature the "house font" (which is actually very similar to mainstream sans-serif fonts) but do not feature the brand's logotype; just "normal" text.

Our concern is that, whilst the "Understanding" document isn't normative, its phrasing appears to open up possibilities to opt oneself out of this guideline.  We wanted to check if this was the intention, or if there was a possibility of tightening the phrasing of the "Understanding" document, by removing some of the grounds for exemption, for example?

[1] <http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/visual-audio-contrast-text-presentation.html>

Proposed Change:
Tightening of the phrasing of the "intent" section so that there are fewer opportunities to "opt-out" of the guideline.
Received on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 14:57:03 UTC

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