RE: should we be trying to include all disabilities equally?

Hi Lisa

I’m not sure that this should be the question. I think a survey would not prove anything. I’d be utterly astonished if many (or any) would suggest that WCAG 2.1 should exclude cognitive disabilities from its scope!

I think that everyone would like WCAG to address as many accessibility barriers as possible, irrespective of disability. For example, many people will have difficulty navigating and understanding content if it is not well structured or if that structure cannot be determined. Existing SCs that address this problem will benefit users with a range of disabilities, including those with cognitive disabilities. So it is already wrong to say that WCAG 2.0 does not address the needs of people with cognitive disabilities.

The realities are that there are some comparatively easy (as well as universally beneficial and testable) ways to address some of these accessibility barriers (currently already in WCAG 2.0) and in other cases the problems are much more complex, difficult to precisely define and have potential solutions that could benefit one user but be a potential problem for many other users (and/or service developers) (some of these are AAA in WCAG 2.0). The unfortunate reality is that there seem to be a disproportionate number of barriers for people with cognitive disabilities that don’t have easy resolutions.

I certainly couldn’t name anyone who I think is actively trying to exclude cognitive disabilities – I think everyone thinks we should be trying to include them. But there is a big difference between trying and succeeding and, despite our best efforts, it is proving difficult to find solutions that meet the standards necessary for inclusion in WCAG 2.1. Several people have made constructive suggestions to try to help change some of the cognitive SC proposals to make them more acceptable.

So I think WCAG 2.1 will, like WCAG 2.0 will be about disabilities without explicit exclusions. Like many I will be disappointed if it does not add many SCs specifically aimed at people with cognitive disabilities – but if we cannot draft SCs that meet all of the necessary criteria for inclusion in WCAG, that may end up being the reality.

Best regards


From: lisa.seeman []
Sent: 04 July 2017 12:50
To: Andrew Kirkpatrick <>
Cc: WCAG <>
Subject: should we be trying to include all disabilities equally?

Hi Andrew

Just to clarify, do we agree that we that we should be trying to include all disabilities? I think we need to know if we have consensus on this issue.
I am Ok saying we do not. Then we know that this is a specification about some disabilities and not others.

All the best

Lisa Seeman

LinkedIn<>, Twitter<>

---- On Fri, 30 Jun 2017 20:16:05 +0300 Andrew Kirkpatrick <<>> wrote ----

Our focus as a group is on making the best standard that we can, to provide the best guidance for content providers to enable them to make content accessible to as many people as possible. The term “best” has a number of factors that contribute to it, and these are the factors that consume a lot of working group time to get right.

These factors roll up to the Success Criteria Requirements ( that we worked on and are using as part of our process for determining the readiness of SC proposals. Testability, implementability, backward compatibility, and more are important considerations that the WG grapples with whether a proposal will result in a success criteria that the W3C membership will approve of as part of WCAG 2.1. Ultimately, if W3C members don’t believe that the SC within WCAG 2.1 are ready for standardization, WCAG 2.1 won’t be approved and we will wait longer for an update to WCAG 2.0.

We will inevitably face questions from W3C member companies about why we didn’t go farther to support more users with disabilities, including people with cognitive disabilities. This is why we have the process – so we have a basis for the discussion, review, and decisions on proposals that can help reviewers understand that we are doing the best we can to define high-quality success criteria and that there is more left to do to support users with various disabilities. Part of what we hope comes out of the group’s work is greater clarity on where that work needs to be done by the Working Group and when it needs to be done by assistive technologies, user agent technologies, other standards groups, or some combination.

To answer your question, should we be calling attention to things that may be consider discriminatory: Of course we should, but I think that we need to be very care to differentiate between calling out something that may produce what could be viewed as a discriminatory result (for example, “if we don’t have this SC in WCAG 2.1 that will be discrimination toward people with a specific disability”) versus an argument that is based on an attempt to exclude people (for example, “we don’t have any customers with dyslexia so we can’t support this SC”). The latter is within the control of the group directly where we can, as you suggest, reject arguments based on this type of thinking. The former is relevant because the goal of WCAG is to provide a standard that authors, organizations, and regulations can reference as a tool to provide guidance on how to include as many people as possible, but we know that no accessibility standard is capable of addressing 100% of all people with disabilities.

With WCAG 2.1 and moving forward, our goal is to expand the set of users with disabilities that benefit from web sites and applications that conform to WCAG standards. We will not close the gap between where we are with WCAG 2.0 and all users with WCAG 2.1, but we will make progress (including for people with cognitive disabilities), and we will continue to do so with successive releases.


Andrew Kirkpatrick
Group Product Manager, Accessibility

From: "<>" <<>>
Date: Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 16:15
To: Andrew Kirkpatrick <<>>
Cc: WCAG <<>>
Subject: Re: Professional communication / Keeping emotions in check

Among the legitimate criticism , I have been called out for calling attention to things that may be considered discriminatory.

DO we think pointing this out is inappropriate? Surely reducing accommodation for reasons that may be considered discriminatory against users with cognitive disabilities (or low vision or any other disability) is an extremely important and relevant issue. We may disagree on whether specific arguments are in fact discriminatory.  (Is it legitimate to say we should not try to accommodate people who can not understand the language on a page?) but it is an important issue for us to discuss.

If we can not call them out we run the risk of accepting these arguments without challenging their legitimacy. If we decide to do that I think it should be a consensus  decision. Personally, I think when we are discussing to include or exclude an SC, arguments that have a significant  discriminatory aspect should not be accepted  in wcag.

That said it does not imply that anyone who makes these arguments are bad people etc. We are used to thinking of people with cognitive disabilities as outside our target audience or circles and it will be a difficult road to change these attitudes, including inside ourselves.

All the best

Lisa Seeman

LinkedIn<>, Twitter<>

---- On Thu, 29 Jun 2017 20:04:51 +0300 Andrew Kirkpatrick<<>> wrote ----
Thanks to all for their ongoing work on WCAG 2.1. It is difficult and important work, and often tests our intellects, energy, and patience.

I firmly believe that everyone is participating in the group because he or she believes that our work can improve accessibility to web content. Naturally, not everyone has the same expectations about how dramatically WCAG 2.1 can impact end-users, whether we will be able to add nine new success criteria or 40.

We need to be able to have reasonable and appropriate conversation in email and on the teleconferences. People should expect to be able to be heard, and if anyone feels that they are not they should let Josh/Michael/me know. Similarly, people need to let others state their piece.

On the call today we had a level of interruption and raised voices that did not meet the behavioral expectations for group participation. We will reach out to the group members involved to discuss this, but want to remind all members of the importance of holding ourselves to a high standard of professional communication.


Andrew Kirkpatrick
Group Product Manager, Accessibility


Received on Tuesday, 4 July 2017 14:17:42 UTC