slef-reflections on Accessibility

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

WCAG 1.0 was a good thing as far as it went. Even though it's looking a little bit long in the tooth at 8 years old, it's still a useful reference. Why don't more web sites follow it properly?

Last Chance for the Working Draft of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

As a result of commenting on some problems in CUBA's Jam Busting June site I was made aware of the Working Draft of WCAG 2.0 or the Not-Working Draft, as I think it could be called. If you want to comment on it yourself, you had until the end of 27 June 2007 (US EDT, I assume).

Put simply, it's too confusing for both web developers and site managers. Even the Quick Reference is rather long for practical use. It's very indirect - it's not even clear whether xhtml over HTTP is preferred. I submitted a comment about that - also rather disappointing to find that W3C appear to fail to use stripslashes() when needed.

I submitted another comment about the backwards step of allowing Javascript-required sites to be called accessible. Javascript is dangerous for accessibility and bad for power consumption. What the blue blazes is an AJAX-only webmail doing as one of the accessibility examples?

I see that notable sites have already criticised WCAG 2.0. While I don't necessarily agree with everything they say, this is a very disappointing situation. Will WCAG 2 be rescued? Are accessible-friendly webmasters screwed if WCAG 1.0 is replaced by 2.0 in our national standards? It lets all the Flash-only cowboys claim WCAG-conformance as long as they note their site relies upon Flash. (Question: is a site still WCAG-2.0-accessible if it requires Flash to view the note that says it requires Flash?)

Should we start looking towards MACCAWS, WHATWG, expanding IETF to cover the web, or starting another democratic/meritocratic standards body?

2007-06-28T10:28:00Z Alex Hudson commented:

"Similar comments about another W3C WG:

W3C should be about authoring material for the web. It seems at the moment, they're more concerned with the stuff that happens after authoring - e.g., how stuff relates in "the semantic web". IMHO we still don't have any powerful tools for authoring either, so the idea that authoring tools will automate many of the "bolt on accessibility" tasks is pretty naive."

After implementing pingback, I have some respect for hixie. It's disappointing but not surprising to read those comments.

Not sure what is meant by powerful authoring tools there. My tools are powerful, but I know they're not easy for new users. As I'm getting old and cynical, I'm not sure whether power tools can ever be correct and truly easy - just look at the pigswill spewing out of some Web 2.0 sites.

niq sent me a link to the WCAG Samurai Errata and commented:

"The problem with WCAG 2, as with WCAG 1, is precisely that it's a Work of Committee, and seeks to represent too many irreconcilable viewpoints and egos.

In some cases, even the ideas behind it are inconsistent. Many (myself included) regard accessibility as being about ensuring a reader with a physical disability can make use of a site (think Steven Hawking). That's also what HTML is designed to support. Others are concerned with the mentally impaired, also a worthy cause, but one that becomes counterproductive when its advocates fail to distinguish between a site that's inherently inaccessible because it presents a complex and challenging subject, and one that's unnecessarily difficult due to poor presentation.

Add the two together, blend in some stupidity, and you get "accessible" sites full of classic "friendly" little illustrations like a "helpful" government booklet, and a horribly intrusive "alt" to explain each pointless "ethnic mummy and child" picture."

I think a Work of Committee could be useful, as long as you have the right committee. Thinking about that, I found the group membership list and I'm not sure that's the right committee. For example, I think the ex-Adobe Google-worker must surely have an irreconcilable conflict of interest (inappropriate use of Adobe's Flash and PDF formats and Google's Web Apps have done more than many to harm accessibility in the past IMO), yet is a leading light of WCAG 2.0 - maybe that's why it's gone so dark?

2007-06-28T10:46:00Z Update: Thijs Kinkhorst comments:

"As I read in the draft, suggestions are still possible until the 29th, not the 27th of June."

I'm sure that's different to the email which started me writing this, but please go comment and see if we can make WCAG-2.0 useful.

Comments are moderated (damn spammers) but almost anything sensible gets approved (albeit eventually). If you give a web address, I'll link it. I won't publish your email address unless you ask me to, but I'll email you a link when the comment is posted, or the reason why it's not posted.

This is copyright 2007 MJ Ray. See fuller notice on front page.