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Re: Accessibility and its legal requirements

From: Nick Kew <nick@webthing.com>
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2003 19:10:39 +0000 (GMT)
To: Isofarro <w3evangelism@faqportal.uklinux.net>
cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.21.0301071828080.1311-100000@jarl.webthing.com>

On Tue, 7 Jan 2003, Isofarro wrote:

> I am a bit at a loss at some of the aspects of accessibility, especially
> some of the legal interpretations.

You are probably as well-placed as anyone in the UK, where our law has
yet to be tested by the sharks.
> 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?

I would say so, if there is no alternative.  Of course, a functional
alternative - or at worst a link to one - is exactly what should go
in the <noscript>.  WCAG 8.1 (and others) seem clear on the subject.

> 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?

That's hard to find.  But I just grepped the AccessValet tests for
where it mentions noframes, and it's there at Guideline 6.5.

Guideline 11.2 also tells you to avoid Frames at priority 2.

> >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
> clarification):

WCAG is somewhat like a religious text, in that it can be cited to support
different and sometimes conflicting points of view.  As a critic I tend
towards a strict view of them.  As a software developer, I take a broadly
similar view, with a proviso that a user may of course make an informed
decision to override a warning.

> 1.) Framed content can be as accessible as non-framed content

IMO it can be - though in practice it seldom is.

> 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.

In that case, invoke guideline 11.2 and get rid of the offending frames.

> 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".

How do you make that distinction in the absence of case law?  The letter
of the law is always subject to interpretation ... who has the most
expensive lawyer and can get the judge he knows from the rotary or
the golf club ...

> 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.

OK, consider a hypothetical case.  Your company gets sued by a disabled
applicant for a senior post, on the grounds that the only reason not to
employ them was that your information system is not sufficiently
accessible for them to do the job.  What is your defence?

Of course IANAL, but I would expect to look at the questions:
  - What is it about your system that's inaccessible?
  - Is there a valid reason for it being inaccessible (eg content that
    is inherently visual or auditory)?
  - Have you made a reasonable effort in good faith to ensure it is

If you comply properly with WCAG in both letter and spirit, then you
would seem to have a solid best-efforts defence.  If you haven't, and
if the problems at the root of the case can be linked to your failure
to do so, you would not have that defence.  And if I were called as
an expert witness, I would expect to address that question in some

> Your thoughts and experience would be greatly appreciated.
> Mike.

Well, that's my thoughts FWIW.  But I rather suspect we're already on
the same side of the fence, and that my expertise duplicates your own
more than it complements it:-)

Nick Kew
Received on Tuesday, 7 January 2003 14:10:47 UTC

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