Re: Draft Response To "Do No Harm" PR Issue

I do not feel that having a conformance level available which allows a tool
to get some kind of endorsement without meeting our aims is automaticaly a
violation of our charter.

However I think Gregory has raised an important point or two. The first is
that in his opinion, a tool that excludes a number of users is doing harm,
and should not be declared worthy of some kind of endorsement. Although I
agree with the conclusion, I think it reflects a larger point, which is that
there is not, (and is unliekly in my opinion to be) agreement in the working
group on what is the single most important checkpoint - the answer always
depends on who is asking the question, and in what context. For some people,
a text editor such as emacs provides all they need to author HTML
successfully, and their only requirement is that it be accessible itself. For
others they don't really care if a tool is accessible, but they need to know
what is required to make accessible pages, and help is the most important
thing, since thay can repair anything a tool does, or rewrite it in the case
of a programmable tool (this is what I did for over a year. For others again,
the important thing is that the tool doesn't destroy their markup.

I don't think there is any way we can stop (or any reason we would try to
stop) people saying they meet some portion of P1 checkpoints and some portion
of P2 checkpoints even if they do not meet a particular level. I think that
is valuable information for consumers who are looking to match a tool to
their needs, and it is therefore in our interests that it is possible to deal
with such partial solutions in the absence of a good solution.

I don't think hte propoosed solution will solve any problems, and I think it
will sdetrack the group into dealing with questions of implementation plans
that are more properly handled by the developers of an individual tool.

So I agree with Gregory that we should not make this proposed change, and as
I understand it that was the opinion expressed generally in the meeting where
we discussed it last week. However I think the proposed answer addresses one
aspect of the reasoning by which we rejected it at the expense of more
generalised reasoning which I think we should have in our final response.


Charles McCN

On Mon, 29 Nov 1999, Gregory J. Rosmaita wrote:

  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
  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 <>
     WebMaster and Minister of Propaganda, VICUG NYC

--Charles McCathieNevile  phone: +61 409 134 136
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative          
21 Mitchell Street, Footscray, VIC 3011,  Australia (I've moved!)

Received on Tuesday, 30 November 1999 11:27:22 UTC