W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ua@w3.org > July to September 1999

Re: User Agent Accessibility Guidelines

From: Ian Jacobs <ij@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 19:43:02 -0400
Message-ID: <37F3F586.4336AB2C@w3.org>
To: Kasper Peeters <K.Peeters@damtp.cam.ac.uk>
CC: disc@mnemonic.org, w3c-wai-ua@w3.org
Kasper Peeters wrote:
> Hi there,

Hi Kasper,

I'm cc'ing the UAGL Working Group with your comments and mine.

> > I had a quick look at
>    http://www.w3.org/WAI/UA/WAI-USERAGENT-19990827/.
> In general, the idea is of course very good, but I doubt that it will
> make much of a difference for the next generation browsers. 

We have taken longer than expected to publish these Guidelines,

> Some things are completely obvious, while others show that the authors of
> this document have not looked beyond standard (mostly Windows)
> solutions. 

I'm surprised that you say that since we have considered software
other than IE and NN and other platforms as well (I'm a Linux user,
for one, and our colleagues use Lynx, Amaya, Opera, Home Page
Reader, PWWebSpeak, Jaws, and other tools.)

> This document has the flavour of being another excuse for
> the big two to claim that they are standards compliant without
> actually doing any innovative programming. I don't think I will loose
> sleep if we fail to get the `Conformance Level A' mark. Appreciation
> of open source software isn't shown by putting a big `W3C approved'
> mark on it.

Our goal is not at all to give the big browser companies a means for
displaying a token stamp of approval. The goal is to ensure
that functional requirements of people with disabilities are 
are being met by tools and to tell developers what those needs are.
> A few random remarks (mostly negative, sorry):

Better now than later.

> - Some of the issues are so completely obvious that it seems silly to
> even mention them. Using the `standard' API to communicate with input
> devices, for instance. Although you might have a point here
> considering the fact that eg. Mozilla is implementing its own GUI
> toolkit from scratch.

While you find this obvious (I'm glad), this is not always done in
There is software that bypasses standard APIs (to improve performance
I believe) and that throws off assistive technology that relies on
standard system calls. 
> - Installation and configuration is very much tied, at least on Unix,
> to the particular flavour you are using (and for Linux, depends
> crucially on which distribution you are running). These issues really
> are outside of reach for browser developers.

UA developers are not asked to make accessible what is not in their
purview. We wouldn't ask you to make RPMs accessible. However,
can choose formats for their documentation. We ask them to provide
at least one accessible format. 

What specifically do you think we're asking developers to control that
we shouldn't?
> - Keyboard control is nice, but only up to a certain point. Using fake
> (simulated) keyboard events to drive a program is a stupid way of
> controlling things; adding scripting capabilities or a CORBA (or other
> distributed OO) interface is the proper way to solve these problems.

To what problems do you refer? I would be very interested to 
hear when access through the keyboard is not a good idea. I do
almost everything I need with my keyboard in emacs.
> - Being able to switch off certain effects of scripts seems a _very_
> bad solution to a self-inflicted problem: javascript is maybe _the_
> main reason why there are no open source browsers that can be used for
> all browsing activities. W3C should simply be actively discouraging
> the use of scripts if they are serious about accessibility. Anyone
> with a bit of experience knows that most javascript sites are
> _completely_ useless if you do not have either Netscape or IE.

I guess I should point you to one of the companion guidelines
for Web Content Developers [1]. We don't say "don't use scripts",
but we do say that your pages have to work when scripts are
not supported or turned off.

[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT
> - DOM: I'm sorry to say, but the DOM standard is, from a technical
> point of view, among the worst ever produced by W3C. 

Yikes! My name is even on the HTML portion of that one!

> Not only that;
> sensible remarks on the mailinglists are _completely_ ignored. It feels
> as if bad decisions by IE (and to a lesser extend Netscape) are
> imposed on us. Getting developer support also means that W3C should
> let open source developers allow to join in the discussion about what
> should become a standard.

This is a hot topic at W3C these days and movements to open
up the process further. (Side note: all of the WAI Working
Groups are open and we are always looking for input, such as yours).
Stay tuned for what I hope is an evolution in the direction
of more openness.
> Having said that, I'm absolutely not unwilling to respond to serious
> suggestions about improving the usability of Mnemonic. But in the open
> source world, I have no doubt that once a good browser framework is
> available, applications or add-ons to drive it using alternative
> input/output mechanisms will be developed when there is a need for
> them.

I'd be happy to call you and talk if you have the time. I really
appreciate your quick feedback so far.

Thank you,

 - Ian

Ian Jacobs (jacobs@w3.org)   http://www.w3.org/People/Jacobs
Tel/Fax:                     +1 212 684-1814
Cell:                        +1 917 450-8783
Received on Thursday, 30 September 1999 19:44:04 UTC

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