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Judging Web Site Accessibility

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2003 10:05:06 -0700
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
To: "Tim Roberts" <tim@wiseguysonly.com>
Message-Id: <808721CA-A8C1-11D7-AC3A-000393D9E692@idyllmtn.com>

On Friday, June 27, 2003, at 07:57 AM, Tim Roberts wrote:
> Can I rephrase the question to say, do you think that for a site that  
> promotes
> accessible web content the job is good enough?

I don't know for sure.

One point I have been making recently, when dealing with students in
my class, is that it's not my job -- as an apparent "expert" -- to
tell other people what to do.

Rather, it's my job as an _educator_ to give people the information
they need in order to decide what to do.

Thus, if someone asks me, "which should I do, (a) or (b)?", I'll
strive to see that they understand the consequences of each choice
and the implications and costs associated with those choices.

There are a number of factors which are involved in any decision
regarding the accessibility of a site, ranging from internal
politics to technical considerations; from legal requirements to
business return-on-investment analyses.  Without having those
factors available to me, I couldn't advise properly.

For example, let's say that someone publishes a Web site which
doesn't fully meet WCAG 1.0 -- the first question to ask is
why?  The second question is "how can this be changed?" and
that involves a deeper understanding of what's going on.

Let's say, hypothetically, that a given organization champions
Web accessibility, but their Web site isn't so hot by modern
standards of Web design.  First we have to determine why.
Since this is hypothetical, let's assume the answer is, "Because
we have a limited budget and so we did it in-house.  Our Web
developer is not a professional developer and so her skills
aren't as good as some people's skills.  She learned HTML
a few years ago by reading a book, and maintains a Web site
for her knitting club as a hobby."

Okay, so that's the "why." Now for the "how" -- there are a
number of possible solutions.  The easiest is to insist that
the poor designer be replaced -- but that's easy to say, and
hard to do in practice, as we're talking about someone's job.

Next we might say "hire an outside agency to develop the
site" -- but the reason this hypothetical organization had
our poor designer create the site is because of money concerns.
Maybe they're cash-strapped, and the majority of their money
goes to other services -- so when prioritizing, it was
determined that it's okay for their site to be "just okay."

Maybe we could solve the problem by educating the Web
developer.  The direct cost could be lower ($80 each for a
few IWA/HWG classes, $40 each for a couple books, etc.) but
there's also a time cost.  Can our developer spare the time
from her other duties to take the time out for classes?  Can
the Web site be delayed for the time -- from a few days to
several months -- necessary for her to become skilled?

Okay, so maybe you can answer some of those questions -- it's
easy, sitting back and criticizing, saying "they didn't do it
right."  It's harder, of course, to write out a hefty check to
a charity [e.g., 1] so that they could potentially hire a better
Web developer.

But my point is this:  The state of any given Web site's
accessibility may be far more complex than simply looking at the
site and deciding that it "passes" or doesn't.  I am particularly
concerned with the notion that sites -must- be forced/shamed into
meeting a specific standard publicly debated by "experts" -- who
may have no particular knowledge of the design factors around
the site.

I don't know if the site is "good enough" -- by what standards are
you suggesting we judge them?  My personal opinion?


Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                     http://kynn.com
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain                http://idyllmtn.com
Author, CSS in 24 Hours                       http://cssin24hours.com
Inland Anti-Empire Blog                      http://blog.kynn.com/iae
Shock & Awe Blog                           http://blog.kynn.com/shock
Received on Friday, 27 June 2003 12:59:37 UTC

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