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Accessibility and its legal requirements

From: Isofarro <w3evangelism@faqportal.uklinux.net>
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2003 11:57:52 +0200
Message-ID: <002d01c2b633$407e46c0$6831f7c2@laptop>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

I am a bit at a loss at some of the aspects of accessibility, especially
some of the legal interpretations. Working for an assurance company in the
UK, I am aware of the implications of the Disability Discrimination Act.
We've had an audit for our website, written by a London-based company that
have quite a bit of experience in usability and accessibility issues -
they've provided a list of changes needed to meet Priority 1 and some
Priority 2 recommendations (of WCAG).

Two issues raise stand out as contentious:

We have a list of applications on our website allowing people to sign up for
products on line. Due to various reasons and beliefs, a number of these
applications rely on Javascript to function - one or two use Javascript to
work out which page they need to go to next. Now checkpoint 6.3 of WCAG
states "Ensure that pages are usable when scripts [...] are turned off or
not supported. If this is not possible, provide equivalent information on an
alternative accessible page. [Priority 1]"

The guidance we were given was to include <noscript> content indicating that
Javascript is required for this page. Am I right in believing that this is
not sufficient to meet priority 1? In that either the page must function
without javascript, or an alternative non-javascript page must be
supplied -- that's what's needed, not just noscript elements saying "This
page is inaccessible".

The second issue, which certainly seems odd to me, is the issue with frames.
There are parts of the site which are framed (into a top banner and bottom
menu, with the content in the middle). To make these pages compliant, only
Checkpoint 12.1 and 12.2 seem to be required, stating:

"12.1 Title each frame to facilitate frame identification and navigation
"[Priority 1]"

"12.2 Describe the purpose of frames and how frames relate to each other if
it is not obvious by frame titles alone [Priority 2]"

So that means just putting title attributes to frame elements and describe
the purpose of frames is sufficient to make them accessible?

From my (albeit biased) approach, frames are not conducive to usability and
visitor accessibility (my bias:
http://www.html-faq.com/htmlframes/?FramesAreEvil ). But I'm surprised that
WCAG doesn't mention removing the frames and integrating the header and
navigation into the content. So that opens up two possible viewpoints (I'm
not inclined to believe this is an error, thus naturally seeking more

1.) Framed content can be as accessible as non-framed content
2.) There's something "higher-up" that's tackled the frames question, such
as the conclusion "There was no other alternative to using frames" so
there's an underlying assumption that there is a strong reason for using
frames. My example above, there's nothing in favour of using frames, so
accessibility would be improved by removing the frames and doing the
relevant include processing on the server.

A thornier issue for me, and one that's tearing me to pieces at the moment
boils down to "the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law".
Following the letter of the law involving doing the bare minimum work
required to make a site compliant with legislature (or interpretations of
it). Spirit of the Law involving taking positive action that brings a
website as close to full accessibility as possible.

From what I've read about ADA and Maguire vs SOCOG, accessible websites are
expected if it can be done with reasonable cost and effort. Following the
letter of the law implies just spending the bare amount needed to comply
(but still have accessibility hiccups and kludges that could be solved, but
not needed to meet legal criteria), but the spirit of the law (making things
accessible) involves doing as much as reasonably possible, with reasonable
effort and reasonable cost to make it as accessible as possible.

I believe full accessibility is possible with our current website, but I
feel that "beancounters" will opt for the lowest cost route to minimum
adherence. Since there hasn't been a legal test of what is deemed
"acceptable and reasonable accommodation" for accessibility, I'm sceptical
that just meeting the letter of the [untested] law is sufficient. Just one
ruling against is enough to make going for "minimum" accessibility project a
waste of time.

I would love a fully compliant XHTML1.0 Strict, CSS compliant, Bobby and
Access Valet compliant, non-javascript dependant website - I believe it to
be completely feasible with a handful of exceptions in applications I do not
have a say in.

If a company wants to its website to be geniunely accessible, is meeting the
letter of the law sufficient? To me, meeting the letter of the law is the
same as settling for second best (or doing half measures) -- am I just being
too idealistic?

Your thoughts and experience would be greatly appreciated.
Received on Tuesday, 7 January 2003 06:59:52 UTC

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