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Draft Response To "Do No Harm" PR Issue

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 22:19:25 -0500
Message-Id: <4.1.19991129213353.00a43920@pop3.concentric.net>
Message-Id: <4.1.19991129213353.00a43920@pop3.concentric.net>
Message-Id: <4.1.19991129213353.00a43920@pop3.concentric.net>
To: Authoring Tools Guidelines List <w3c-wai-au@w3.org>
Draft Response To "Do No Harm" Member Request for An 
Additional Conformance Level That Would Address ONLY 
The Accessibility of the Content Created by the Tool

NOTE: This response is a work-in-progress and does not
reflect a consensus on the part of the Authoring Tools
Working Group.

This response is divided into 6 parts:
  Part 1: Introduction
  Part 2: Response
  Part 3: Conclusion
  Part 4: References
  Part 5: Drafter's End Note
  Part 6: Appendix: Member A's Comments in Full

The Authoring Tools Working Group (AUWG) has been asked by a
W3C Member Organization to consider adding a conformance
level lower than Single-A, which would signify that the
product "does no harm" [reference 1]

It is the decision of the AUWG to reject this proposal for
the following reasons:

1. The AUWG's charter [reference 2] expressly states that
the "mission" of the Working Group is to:

  * provide author support for creating accessible Web
  * ensure an accessible user interface for authors with

A conformance level that addresses only the output of an
authoring tool, and ignores the accessibility of the tool
itself, would, therefore, violate the AUWG's charter.
Furthermore, it is the consensus of the AUWG that this
request has been made in the improper forum.  The proper
forum in which the member organization should have raised
this issue was the AUWG's charter review, and not during
Proposed Recommendation.

2. The AUWG has consistently, and repeatedly, reiterated its
commitment to the fulfillment of the goals outlined in the
ATAG's Abstract:

  This specification provides guidelines for Web
  authoring tool developers. Its purpose is two-fold: to 
  assist developers in designing authoring tools that 
  generate accessible Web content and to assist developers 
  in creating an accessible authoring interface.
  Authoring tool users ("authors") can be enabled,
  encouraged and assisted to create accessible Web content 
  through prompts, alerts, checking and repair functions, 
  help files and automated tools. It is equally important 
  that all people can be the authors of Web content,
  rather than merely recipients. The tools used to create
  this information must therefore be accessible themselves.
  Adoption of these guidelines will contribute to the 
  proliferation of Web content that can be read by a 
  broader range of readers and in authoring tools that can 
  be used by a broader range of authors.  [reference 3]

And in the ATAG's Introduction: 

  The guidelines in this specification are designed to
  help authoring tool developers design authoring tools 
  that can be used by people regardless of disability, and 
  that produce accessible Web content. [reference 4]
As the above excerpts eloquently illustrate, it is the
consensus of the AUWG that the web must not be reduced to
a read-only experience for users with disabilities.  The
provision of a lowered conformance level, which addresses
only the accessibility of the output generated by the
tool, would, therefore, undermine the integrity and
import of the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines,
and is unacceptable to the AUWG.  It is not sufficient
that users with disabilities merely be recipients of
accessible content--they, too, must be given the ability
to make their individual and collective voices heard.

Therefore, it is the consensus of the AUWG that one
cannot possibly "do no harm" without addressing the
accessibility of the tool itself.  Failure to do so would
not only violate the Working Group's charter, but -- more
significantly -- exclude a significant minority of users
from expressing themselves online in an independent

1. http://www.w3.org/1999/11/AU-review-comments.html#Developer1
2. http://www.w3.org/WAI/AU/charter
3. http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/PR-WAI-AUTOOLS-19991026/#Abstract
4. http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/PR-WAI-AUTOOLS-19991026/#Introduction

Drafter's End Note: I chose to delete my reference to:

    an even greater number of users who, as quote
    situationally disabled unquote users, would 
    benefit from the application of ATAG.

as I felt it was slightly off-target, although given the 
target audience for this response, it might be appropriate.


We encourage the working group to focus on producing
guidelines and/or techniques that will be more immediately
intelligible and usable for practicing programmers, even at
the expense of potentially creating difficulties within the
W3C process.

Particular areas of concern that have been identified are:
  1.   lack of clarity about what the guidelines expect to be
     done by the tool, versus what they expect to be done by the
     user of the tool; [CMN notes there has been discussion in a
     Member-only mailing list suggesting that the working group
     should formally identify which WCAG checkpoints must be
     dealt with by the tool and which can be ignored]
2.   lack of clarity about the expected level of
sophistication of the user of the tool; and
3.   a document structure that allows considerable confusion
about how many checkpoints there are.

We suggest that the working group consider the possibility
of a lower conformance level, indicating effectively that
the product "does no harm" -- that it may not yet reach A
level for supporting accessibility, but neither does it
impair or interfere with efforts to provide accessibility.
Such a conformance level could do a lot to help eliminate
the problem of tools that do interfere with accessible

He that lives on Hope, dies farting
     -- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1763
Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
   WebMaster and Minister of Propaganda, VICUG NYC
Received on Monday, 29 November 1999 22:13:08 UTC

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