Re: The difference between Standards and Government Documents


If I may add to Denis' comments with regards to the legal situation in
Québec and perhaps offer a different point of view (*disclaimer*: I was
part of the team that prepared the first version of the Québec Web
accessibility standard).

>From a legal standpoint, before the Québec standard (SGQRI 008) came
along, there already was a legal obligation, and this concerns the public
and private sector. First, Québec has a human rights charter[1] that
applies to all entities, including the private sector. So, any person with
a disability could invoke article 10 of the provincial human rights
charter with regards to inaccessibility of public sector or commercial web
sites whether we have a standard or not. Using the charter is not a simple
process but people with disabilities have recently started using the
charter more with regards to information technologies used by commercial
entities (most notably concerning point of sales terminals) and I believe
we can expect more instances where the charter will be used.

Also, in terms of legislation, Québec has a provincial law on disability
rights[2] that was updated in 2004 and that created an obligation, via
article 26.5, that the Québec government adopt a policy granting access to
people with disabilities, in the spirit of reasonable accommodation, to
services and public information regardless of their format (so including
those offered online). This policy[3] was adopted in December 2006. Of
note, all other public policies dealing with information resources must
refer to this specific policy for accommodations to people with

The Québec standard Denis mentioned is a technical tool that specifies
technical obligations for Web content but the legal obligation was already
there and for quite some time (albeit, it is easy to imagine the standard
having a political impact but it is still much too early to discuss this
yet). In the absence of the standard, a person with disabilities using the
legal tools at her disposal could have pointed to internationally
recognized guidelines (WCAG) and the provincial government would have been
hard-pressed to argue, especially considering how the federal government
had traditionally chosen to deal with web accessibility of government web

Besides precising technical obligations, the process of developing the
provincial standard, i.e. rewriting over the span of more than 4 years
technical guidelines that already existed, could have easily given the
government the false impression that it could stall. That no user with a
disability called them on it and did not pursue a case is just the
government's luck. The standard may also muddy the waters with regards to
just how far an agency or ministery has to go since it excludes certain
types of information, applies different obligation deadlines for certain
types of content or platforms (example, intranets) and provides a big out
(alternate version).

I would be remiss if I did not mention that some in the disability
community in Québec are not necessarily thrilled with this standard. While
it is *technically* sound, some people and organisations (including
myself) are wary of its application objectives and disappointed with the
whole process that led to its development and adoption. However, we
recognise that the standard can be part of a toolkit of sorts that enables
the disability community to ensure the government is respecting our
digital rights.

And, even though ministeries and agencies had a chance to be consulted and
to negotiate the standard and therefore see it coming (which is more than
the disability community can say since the standard was not the subject of
any public consultations and was developed without the disability
community), there are, less than a month after its adoption, already
rumors of resistance within the government due to lack of funds to apply
it. But of course, that was to be expected.

Please note that all links direct to French resources.

Best regards,



Catherine Roy

On Mon, June 6, 2011 5:01 pm, Denis Boudreau wrote:
> Good afternoon Wayne, all,
> On 2011-06-06, at 3:19 PM, Wayne Dick wrote:
>> This primarily to Denis, but the rest of the group might be interested.
> I'll do my best to make it so then!
>> As I read the document, I notice that the WAI is not concerned with
>> laws, policies, regulations and guidelines developed by governments.
>> These are necessary implementation templates for executing WCAG 2.0.
>> The documents actually discourages developing local Standards.
> This is my understanding also. While I totally understand why the W3C
> needs to do so, I do believe most governments will always have a tendency
> to do things their way. In my case here, simply saying "go with the W3C"
> was totally out of the question. Government officials I work for never
> even considered it, based on their understanding of the results from the
> Canadian government experience (more on that below).
> As "damaging" as it may be for accessibility in certain cases, I truly
> believe it doesn't always have to be harmful. Hence my comments last
> friday.
>> So, in Canada (Quebec) did you develop a National or Provincial
>> Standards document, of did you formulate law, policy, regulations and
>> guidelines?  If you did the latter, then you did exactly the right
>> thing.  Canada may be held up as an exemplar of good practice.
> Given the politics up here, I highly doubt we can be help up as an example
> of any kind. But let's not discuss canadian politics just yet. <smile>
> It's kind of in between actually. I co-wrote the standards, but we also
> wrote different documents intended as guidelines to help web
> authors/developers get it right. I had (and still have) no bearings on the
> legal aspects of the whole thing, however.
>> Could you clarify this.
> Here's what happened and the context in which it did, in as few words as
> possible.
> Canada has had it's accessibility standard since 2000: it's called CLF
> (Common Look and Feel), v2.0. It basically says: apply WCAG 1.0 level AA
> (with minor modifications). The Treasury Board currently works on an
> upgrade that brings CLF to WCAG 2.0 AA. They rely on techniques and
> failures as guides in order to understand how WCAG needs to be
> implemented. There are no laws, regulations or policies as far as I know.
> 10 years after having adopted WCAG however, the canadian government has
> better-than-average accessible websites, but none of them are actually
> compliant with WCAG 2.0 as most people have very different understanding
> of WCAG guidelines. This is a problem and this is what led the Quebec
> government to go down a different route.
> Quebec adopted their standards on may 10th of this year. It is "only" a 50
> pages or so 3-document standard (topics: html, downloadable documents and
> multimedia) that maps on to WCAG 2.0. Seeing how people's understanding of
> WCAG 2.0 was unequal from one developer to another, we decided to "break
> down" every SC we kept into so many different requirements that, once put
> together, say pretty much the same thing WCAG 2.0 AA does. That break down
> actually proves helpful (thus my example last friday with SC 1.3.1). Right
> now, the standards are a mandatory directive from the Quebec's treasury
> Board, but there's a law coming along (bill 133) that will most likely
> turn those standards into a legal obligation as well. The standards affect
> just about every organization from the public sector that's out there.
> We're talking hundreds of organizations (which is a huge deal, considering
> we're only 7,7 million people in Quebec). No private sector yet - we'll
> have to wait for that one.
> So in a way, what we have in is very much like WCAG 2.0 AA (except for
> video content that only goes as high as A). If you follow those
> guidelines, you will automatically be compliant with WCAG 2.0 AA. But you
> don't necessarily have to dig really deep to understand how to do it.
> Which is why I am reluctant to agree on some of the wording in the
> document: somehow, this makes it more easy for people to get it right the
> first time - thus, I humbly believe that fragmentation is not always a
> disaster. Only time will tell if it actually works or not.
> Best regards,
> /Denis

Received on Tuesday, 7 June 2011 05:39:04 UTC