Re: PROPOSAL(revised): User Agent Types

At 09:05 AM 12/23/98 -0600, Jon Gunderson wrote:

>Do you think these are the user agent types that we should be using?

No, because I don't think we should be using user agent types.  

To determine browser requirements, we should create enough definitions so
that one can classify the environments in which browser products operate,
and the browser product developers should be deciding what environments
they will support directly and what environments they will address by


1.  Background:  If [user agent types | interface profiles] is the answer,
what is the question?:

One original question was "What do I tell my product designers? [that they
must do]?"

2.  Hypothesis:  One possible response to this question, and the response
that is assumed here, is:

"You must consider carefully the user interaction functions or modes that
are required (detailed in the UA guidelines document) for various UI device
profiles, and clearly state in pre-sale product information what profiles
the product supports by itself and what profiles is supports by
adaptability.  Where support by adaptability is claimed, additional system
requirements for adaptive technology must be clearly explained in the
pre-sale product information.  All these claims must be subjected to
stringent quality standards maintained through user testing and product

3.  Hypothesis (terminology):  Distinguish "user agents" from "browser

In the accessible-by-adaptation scenario, the user agent includes those
adaptive technology modules and browser product modules that are actually
exercised as the user accesses web content available from a remote server.
So a type system for user agents does not answer the question of what a
browser product must do.

4.  Rationale:  

The key reason for the position I am suggesting has to do with the job
accomodation scenario.  It is not reasonable to say a browser product must
support any specific user interface profile directly,  if the point of
stating guidelines is to facilitate job accomodation for people with
disabilities. In this situation, if indeed there is product-grade adaptive
technology available which makes an adapted workstation with the browser
product and the adaptive technology competitive as a job-performance
platform, then providing a workstation equipped with adaptive technology
and an AT-compatible browser should be considered a reasonable
accomodiation and the employer should be encouraged to shop around.  The
employer should understand their options in providing a browser which meets
the employee's needs as opposed to providing adaptive technology and
compatible browser which together meet the employee's needs.  This decision
should be made by the employer in consultation with the employee on a
price/performance basis.  The WAI and W3C should not make any statements
which arbitrarily restrict the employer's choices in this situation.

On the server side, the legal requirement is effective delivery of
communication services, not that all pages must be accessible to all people.

Similarly, on the client side the legal requirement is that employers must
within reason provide employees with a workstation which is competitive in
job performance and compatible with the employee's interface needs.  Not
that all products purchased to equip this workstation must be accessible to
all potential users on a standalone basis.

I expect that we will do the overall job-accomodation effort more good if
we classify the user interface needs and not the products.  The product
capability profiles shift too much.  If we design our guidelines around
product types they will soon be obsolete as the boundaries of market
segments shift.  This has been an active area of change recently and we
cannot assume this is going to stop now.  The user interface needs of the
users with disabilities are relatively stable.  Our statements in the UA
Guidelines will be relevant longer if we frame our category definitions in
this way, and not in terms of product types directly.

We should be helping employers make reasonable decisions about how to equip
their employee's workstations.  To the extent that AT and mass-market
products team up to make feasible solutions to the job accomodation puzzle,
we should not make any statements of "acceptable technology" regarding
either one without considering how it interacts with the other. 


Received on Friday, 1 January 1999 10:45:29 UTC