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Importance Of The DOM for Making the WWW An Accessible Platform

From: T. V. Raman <raman@Adobe.COM>
Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 11:11:22 -0800 (PST)
Message-ID: <14019.11098.269650.208561@labrador>
To: w3c-wai-ua@w3.org, w3c-wai-pf@w3.org
CC: raman@Adobe.COM

I've been watching the discussion about the importance of
the DOM vs platform specific access APIs on the UA list and
would like to make a few observations with a view to making
sure we dont lose sight of the primary W3C/WAI focus.

I think it is a core responsibility of the W3C/WAI effort 
to ensure that the evolving WWW platform develops into the
best possible platform for universal access--
and though the short-term solution to enabling access via
legacy user-agents may be for accessibility aids to rely on
platform-specific APIs, such reliance should not be used as
an excuse to thwart or discourage 
a more universal, platform-independent accessibility

Today, there are platform specific access APIs --MSAA and
Java Access being the more notable among these--
both APIs have received considerable input from the
accessibility vendors and user communities over time.
There are also specific forums for getting input on and
discussing the benefits of these platform-specific APIs.

The WWW is  more than one vendor's browser or operating
system --it's more than one vendor's APIs--
The WWW is a vendor neutral platform for publishing
information today and infoware going forward.

The DOM is the underlying document model for the WWW
platform-- from an accessibility perspective, the
significance of the DOM to future accessibility far
outweighs the importance of any single platform-specific or
vendor-specific API.

If a specific browser or platform can offer access
functionality over and beyond what the DOM can offer today,
more power to that platform --and we should all
whole-heartedly applaud the efforts of said platform;
however, this should not be an excuse to twist the arms of
access vendors into providing accessibility exclusively
through platform-specific APIs-- nor should it be used as
the justification for discouraging developping appropriate
access relevant features in the DOM.

At the same time, if specific user agents choose not to
implement all of the DOM, market forces should be allowed to
decide if that user agent made the right business decision--
both with respect to accessibility-- as well as with respect
to the more generally relevant goals of interoperability on
the WWW. Similarly, if a specific adaptive aid chooses to
provide access functionality exclusively via
platform-specific APIs, that is again the decision of the
individual companies responsible for developping and
marketing said aid-- the market will decide whether such a
solution is tenable over the long term.

In short, the W3C/WAI primary goal is to ensure that the WWW
is accessible-- not focus exclusively on any single platform
or user-agent-- let's make sure we dont lose sight of the
forest while crawling through the weeds on the ground.

Best Regards,

      Adobe Systems                 Tel: 1 408 536 3945   (W14-128)
      Advanced Technology Group     Fax: 1 408 537 4042 
      W14-128 345 Park Avenue     Email: raman@adobe.com 
      San Jose , CA 95110 -2704     Email:  raman@cs.cornell.edu
      http://labrador.corp.adobe.com/~raman/        (Adobe Intranet)
      http://cs.cornell.edu/home/raman/raman.html    (Cornell)
    Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are my own and in no way should be taken
as representative of my employer, Adobe Systems Inc.
Received on Thursday, 11 February 1999 14:12:10 UTC

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