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Re: How is requiring browser X in violation of the WCAG?

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 1999 12:40:04 -0400
Message-Id: <199906041634.MAA11113@relay.interim.iamworld.net>
To: "Bruce Bailey" <bbailey@clark.net>, "WAI IG" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
At 11:42 AM 6/4/99 -0400, Bruce Bailey wrote:
>I may have really stepped into this time.  I hoping you all can help me

Your only sin is talking about something that is uncomfortable, like the
kid who outed the emperor's new clothes.

>Part of my job duties involve supporting our employees who use assistive
>technology, notably screen readers.  There is a new (federally sponsored)
>program to allow staff to participate in a online masters degree program at
>George Washington University.  The problem is that GWU web site is a good
>model of inaccessible design.  The "courseware" program is some customized
>application developed in house (at GWU) that requires a certain browser
>(for compatibility with poorly written JavaScript I believe).  Most of the
>require reading materials will be distributed as PDF files.

Don't diss the script writers.  I hear consistently from independent
sources that the Netscape dialect of JavaScript is much better for these

>My boss's boss's boss (the head of our agency) recognizes the importance of
>accessibility and the validity of the WCAG, and appreciates how ridiculous
>it would be to use traditional volunteer book readers to transcript a
>supposedly electronic course.  Despite my best efforts, he does not believe
>that a university's requirement for certain versions of certain software on
>the client end is unreasonable, or in violation of the WCAG.
>My needs (as I perceive them) are as follows:
>1)  What is the most succinct way to argue that requiring a certain browser
>IS in violation of the WCAG?

The problem is that we laid this one between the lines.  This does not
violate the WCAG, per se.  It violates the whole point of the WCAG, which
is technical checks which will ensure that you don't need to standardize
the client.

The explicit WCAG violations are at a lower level; such as all those pages
that don't work with scripts turned off.  That is a clear chapter and verse

However, this is not the argument that your UberBoss needs to hear.  He
needs to understand the actual problem.  The actual problem is that for the
blind user, the browser is not the user interface, the screen reader is.
And while WIMP browsers are interchangeable with minor annoyance, screen
readers are a whole different kettle of fish.  Learning the screen reader
User Interface is a major cognitive investment and it doesn't work if you
can't do it by heart.  You can't just slide over to the screen reader that
happens to work with browser X and keep working.  That is why it is
essential for this class of disabled users that the content be standardized
in a client-neutral way at the browser input.  

We never laid that out in detail because as the W3C it is indelicate for us
to name names of products of members.  And to talk about the lack of
mix-and-match at the browser-screen-reader interface one would have to name
names of browser products from W3C members.  So the browser-neutral
principle is in the assumptions, not the letter, of the WCAG.

>2)  Can anyone refer me to university accredited on-line classes that are
>accessible with Lynx or pwWebSpeak?
>In the meantime, I will be trying to upgrade the software for the one user
>in question.  (She is currently very happy with MS IE 3x and Artic
>WinVision.  WinVision, however, is not currently compatible with IE 4x and
>Arctic makes no promises about compatibility with ANY versions of Netscape
>Navigator.)  This will not help at all when it comes to the PDF files --
>which are images of text -- access.adobe will be useless.  I am advocating
>that, in the meantime, the user make extensive use of disabled student
>services.  I am also (going through channels this time) trying to get this
>issue on the radar of appropriate folks at GWU.  Anybody know the president
>there?  <grin>  We have a little time, the class does not actually start
>until the end of August.
>The courseware registration page is at:
>http://prometheus.gwu.edu/ -- use any text you like to get through the
>front door -- but it is not compatible with IE 3x nor Lynx (nor pwWebSpeak
>I would guess).
>The pages at GWU warrant inspection -- they at least let one know that this
>problem is endemic to the whole institution:
>Thank you very much.
>Bruce Bailey,
>Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Rehabilitation Services
Received on Friday, 4 June 1999 12:35:00 UTC

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