RE: A few thoughts on alternative rendering

I think the issue of the "universal" browser relates closely with the issues
of Universal Design.  Of the seven principles espoused as the fundamentals
of Universas design (,
the first five are relevant to user agent design.  To wit:

PRINCIPLE ONE: Equitable Use
The design is useful and marketable to any group of users. Guidelines:

1a. Provide the same means of use for all users: identical whenever
possible; equivalent when not.

1b. Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users.

1c. Provisions for privacy, security, and safety should be equally available
to all users.

PRINCIPLE TWO: Flexibility in Use
The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and
abilities. Guidelines:
2a. Provide choice in methods of use.
2c. Facilitate the user's accuracy and precision.
2d. Provide adaptability to the user's pace.

PRINCIPLE THREE: Simple and Intuitive Use of the design is easy to
understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills,
or current concentration level.
3a. Eliminate unnecessary complexity.

3b. Be consistent with user expectations and intuition.

3c. Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills.

3d. Arrange information consistent with its importance.

3e. Provide effective prompting for sequential actions.

3f. Provide timely feedback during and after task completion.

PRINCIPLE FOUR: Perceptible Information
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user,
regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.

4a. Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant
presentation of essential information.

4b. Provide adequate contrast between essential information and its

4c. Maximize "legibility" of essential information in all sensory

4d. Differentiate elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy
to give instructions or directions).

4e. Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by
people with sensory limitations.

PRINCIPLE FIVE: Tolerance for Error
The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or
unintended actions. Guidelines:

5a. Arrange elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements,
most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated, isolated, or shielded.

5b. Provide warnings of hazards and errors.

5c. Provide fail safe features.

5d. Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.

Note that all of these are simply good design principles.  With regard,
specifically, to web browsers and universal design, there are some features,
such as keyboard control, that are common to a wide range of individuals.
Keyboard controls are useful for anyone who cannot use, or chooses not to
use, a mouse.  Table serialization may be useful for non-visual users as
well as those with learning disabilities.  Features that are desirable
across a wide range of individuals probably should be a component of the
browser itself.

Some features, on the other hand, are of use only to very limited
populations.  The browser should not be expected to anticipate and
accommodate every possible need.  But it should be made so that a standard
device can provide for the special need.  The user agent should be versatile
enough to accommodate a wide range of common needs, and adaptable enough to
accommodate special needs.  The mechanism needed to provide adaptability are
variable, but the ability to plug extensions into a browser for special
needs would meet this need, if the information necessary to easily create
the plug-ins were readily available.

Denis Anson
-----Original Message-----
From: []On
Behalf Of Charles (Chuck) Oppermann
Sent: Friday, September 25, 1998 4:11 PM
To: Scott Luebking;
Subject: RE: A few thoughts on alternative rendering

While I agree with Scott on his points, making a "universal browser" is
exceedingly difficult.  In cases of specialized rendering, such as voice
output to replace the visual display, that is something I do not believe
should be in the browser and here is why:

1) Design - Microsoft could not do a good job of designing a audio UI for
blind folks and then maintain it moving forward.  The area of expertise is
narrow.  General voice output, such as Aural Style Sheets is one thing -
designing a Speech UI is another.  Trust me, I know.

2) Performance - HTML is used everywhere throughout the operating system.
The rendering object can be loaded in many, many places.  Carrying around
code that is only useful to a small segment of the total users is wasteful
for everyone.  In this age of bloat-ware, a popular feature of Opera is it's
speed and small size.

3) Testing - Specialized rendered requires specialized testing, which the
major companies are not equipped to deal with.

Now, that's not to say that I don't agree that the browser should provide as
much as possible in the way of alternate rendering and/or accessibility
features.  Microsoft has proven for several years that we are willing to add
features to our browser to make it better for everyone.  We will continue to
do that and work with the ISVs to figure out the division between what we
can do, verses what the aid can do.  In many cases, the ISVs feel they can
do it better than us and that's a good thing.

Finally, I shudder at this comment:

An idea that came to mind is to include a statement in the guidelines
that browsers which do not include the specified alternative formats can
be considered to be inaccessible for many blind users.  This statement
could be used in a number of ways, e.g. legal action, 508, etc.

Please remember, that this document is a recommendation.  If it were to be
used as any sort of a legal statement, we would have to reevaluate our
participation in the process.

Furthermore, I reject the argument that if a browser doesn't conform to the
guidelines that it should be "considered to be inaccessible for many blind
users."  Many users and several ISVs will tell you that Internet Explorer is
highly accessible by blind users and at the current time, we only conform to
most of the Priority 1 guidelines.

Charles Oppermann
Program Manager, Active Accessibility, Microsoft Corporation
"A computer on every desk and in every home, usable by everyone!"

-----Original Message-----
From: Scott Luebking []
Sent: Friday, September 25, 1998 12:00 PM
Subject: A few thoughts on alternative rendering

I've been thinking about the issue of where the alternative rendering of
the information is best handled.  In general, I believe for a number of
reasons that providing choices of alternative rendering via the browsers
is preferable for many blind users.

One reason is that blind users can change access technology without
needing to learn new ways that the information is going to be presented.
This means that a user has some more freedom to switch among acess

Having the browser provide alternative renderings reduces the problems
which can crop up when a blind person in the workplace or at school
needs to use the organization-chosen browser that is not well supported
by access technology.

More of the burden is on browser developers rather than access
technology developers.  My suspicion is that it is probably easier for
browser developers to "tweak" their software for alternative renderings
rather than teaching access technology about web pages because the
alternative renderings that are being asked are not that significant in
terms of complexity.

Having the browser handle alternative presentations avoids the lag
between versions of access technology handling changes to browser.

A browser providing alternative renderings does not prevent some access
technology from providing additional renderings if some specialize
segment needs them.

I'm not clear that there are very many reasons why alternative rendering
should not be done in browsers.

The first reason is that browser developers may not understand or seek
out what blind users need.

The second reason is why would browser developers go through any effort
to have their browser provide alternative arrangements?

An idea that came to mind is to include a statement in the guidelines
that browsers which do not include the specified alternative formats can
be considered to be inaccessible for many blind users.  This statement
could be used in a number of ways, e.g. legal action, 508, etc.


Received on Monday, 28 September 1998 11:16:07 UTC