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Conditional assignment of Priority levels in WCAG?

From: Bruce Bailey <bbailey@clark.net>
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 11:32:07 -0400
Message-ID: <01BED436.3867C5C0.bbailey@clark.net>
To: "'w3c-wai-gl@w3.org'" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Dear WAI GL Group,

I respectfully request consideration and discussion that the Priority level 
of certain checkpoints in the WCAG be conditional.

The WCAG is already a fluid document in that it uses the phrase "until user 
agents" frequently.  I believe that it is appropriate to extend this 
thinking to at least a few checkpoints.  I will critique checkpoints 3.3 
and 3.7 in particular.

The purpose of this would be to make it easier for current sites which are 
perfectly accessible (and "Bobby Approved") to achieve AA WCAG conformance 
rating.  The justification is to allow something of a modest reinforcement 
to those who have been championing universal design for years before the 
WCAG was released.

Specifically, I propose that 3.3 be changed to:

3.3 Use style sheets to control layout and presentation. [Priority 2 for 
the strict HTML 4.0 DTD, Priority 3 otherwise]

This is justified because it would allow ACCESSIBLE documents (that adhere 
to the 3.2 / 4.0 transitional DTD) to achieve AA rating.  As the WCAG is 
written now, one cannot achieve AA without using CSS.  The importance and 
appropriateness of CSS is reinforces several times throughout the WCAG, but 
this checkpoint, as it is written, is a little too strict.

One could also avoid ALL elements AND attributes that affect presentation 
(like align=center), but this is too strict too -- and still would require 
a massive rewrite of most pages that are perfectly accessible (and "Bobby 
Approved").  Most authors, include those who are interested in writing 
accessible pages, are loathe to give up ALL of there basic layout controls, 
especially when we know that many can be used WITHOUT detracting from 

I also propose that 3.7 be changed:

3.7 Mark up quotations. Do not use quotation markup for formatting effects 
such as indentation. [Priority 3 until user agents better support the <Q> 
tag, otherwise Priority 2]

Another possibility is to split this checkpoint into <BLOCKQUOTE> [Priority 
2] and <Q> [Priority 3].

I agree with trying to reduce the abuse of the <BLOCKQUOTE> tag, but it 
strikes me as patently absurd to put so much emphasis on <Q> when the 
modern GUI support is so abysmal (Lynx handles it fine BTY).  How can a 
currently unsupported feature be more accessible than using ASCII (neutral) 
marks?  How is something that will typically not be rendered (and therefore 
be invisible) be "better" than a convention that has worked fine for 

<RANT>Mind you, I love the <Q> element and cannot for the life of figure 
out why is was not included sooner, nor why the 4x versions of the major 
browsers don't support it!  Personally, I absolutely HATE neutral quote 
marks.  They are on the top of my list of typographical pet peeves.</RANT> 
 At the risk of having one of my favorite techniques condemned by the WCAG, 
I will also point out that 3.7 should be expanded to explicitly also shun 
use of &#147; and &#8220; and &ldquo; and the like.

Finally, let me conclude by saying that I do appreciate how forward looking 
the WCAG 1.0 is.  Along with others, I missed the opportunity to critique 
the assignment of Priority levels and I did not comprehend the consequences 
of missing even one Priority 2 checkpoint.  I recognize that it is probably 
too late to edit a "stable" W3C recommendation.  Perhaps what I really want 
is come conditional element to the application of the Conformance Logos 
(http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG1-Conformance) so that sites which were 
perfectly accessible before the WCAG came out, can at least claim AA 

Thank you for your time.

Bruce Bailey
Received on Thursday, 22 July 1999 11:33:52 UTC

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