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Responsive Design is the Partial Sight Solution

From: Wayne Dick <waynedick@knowbility.org>
Date: Tue, 30 Jun 2015 07:00:31 -0700
Message-ID: <CAC9gL75tuMp-VLqowu7HndRKFat9uSE=4mFVWJbkHNcqb-0cpw@mail.gmail.com>
To: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
 Issue 2: Responsive Design is a Prerequisite for Accessibility

Visually flexible content as represented by responsive design is an
essential component of accessibility for partial sight. To date, the
technology has been applied to small screens, but it can be applied to any
presentation that reduces screen capacity like changing font face or
increasing text size, line spacing or character spacing. For this reason,
Guideline 1.3, the adaptable content guideline, needs to be expanded to
include visually flexible content using responsive design as its guiding

In 2008, when WCAG was completed, the Mobile Web was not daily experience.
Nobody but people with low vision could see the need for responsive design.
It is not surprising that WCAG Working Group could not see responsive
content as a form of adaptable content required by Guideline 1.3. The need
for adaptable visual content was not in their working experience. It was
easy to hope that screen magnification was sufficient accessibility support.

2008 was before developers discovered that people would not read
shrink-to-fit webpages on small displays. In addition, people really did
not like the functionally truncated mobile version of webpages. By 2010
that fact came through loud and clear. The result was responsive design.
Nobody considered screen magnification software for the mainstream users of
mobile webpages. It was never an option. An average mobile user just could
not master the difficult procedures needed to operate a screen magnifier,
just as more that 90% of people with low vision cannot.

The main difference between users with low vision and mobile users  is
market share. Both user groups operate with view ports that can hold small
quantities of data. Mobile screens and large print documents have between
1/9 to 1/36 of the content capacity of laptop and desktop displays. Both
user groups require a significant simplification of presentation in order
to perceive, operate and understand content. Finally, both groups need all
of the functionality present for users who use view ports with larger
content capacity.

 At the time WCAG 2.0 was approved most drafters of the guidelines could
not perceive the problem. For those who could see the need for visually
flexible content, no clear path to the result existed. Today, people with
normal and low vision have experienced the same problem, and a large
majority of both groups have rejected screen magnification as a solution.
In light of this issue facing a majority population, a solution was found.
Inventive web developers have proven visually flexible data can be encoded
into content. No change of user agent or authoring tool was needed.

The only task remaining for WCAG 2.x regarding visual flexibility is to
embed the capability into new Level A success criteria so that responsive
content is available to everyone. WCAG exists to serve the minority. When a
content technology exists for the majority that could eliminate significant
accessibility barriers for a well defined group of people with
disabilities, and that technology is implemented in a way that ignores
people with the very disability that could be helped most, it is the job of
the WCAG Working Group to expand the access to include everyone.

People with low vision need the visual flexibility of responsive design. No
less really does the job. This means that the WCAG Working Group faces a
difficult task. We need to make a case and to build the institutional
support needed to put a content technology forward that will work, but this
will engender serious resistance from content producers. We know visually
flexible content works, and works well. How can we make it universal?
Received on Tuesday, 30 June 2015 14:00:59 UTC

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