WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: Standards question


From: Jared Smith
Date: Sep 16, 2009 4:25PM

On Wed, Sep 16, 2009 at 2:59 PM, Keith Parks < <EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:

> Hopefully, it is the intent of
> the standards and guidelines to assure accessible content.
> If meeting those standards doesn't guarantee accessibility, then
> either smarter people need to be writing the standards, or else maybe
> it's just not possible.

Standards and guidelines *CANNOT* assure or guarantee accessibility.
They do not claim to do so. It is impossible for them to do so. Their
purpose is to help well-intended developers in learning about
accessibility and defining some measure (and admittedly a very minimal
measure) of accessibility.

Take something as simple (and I use that word loosely) as alternative
text for images. Guidelines can require alternative text in certain
instances, but no guideline or standard could ever measure whether the
alternative text you provide is adequate and equivalent. Only somebody
with a reasonable understanding of accessibility can determine this.

You can be fully compliant with the most strict of guidelines yet
still be totally inaccessible to some users. In order to understand
the gap between where standards end and where true accessibility
happens requires knowledge and experience. Simply following a
checklist will never get you to true accessibility. This is not to
discount the value of guidelines, especially their power to help you
understand that gap, but relying on them alone is never going to be an
assurance of accessibility.

> The "experts" should
> have their act together, and yes, make it "easy" for us. Just tell all
> the rest of us "Follow these guidelines and you'll be doing OK."

I truly wish it were that easy. For the most part, if you follow the
guidelines you will be OK. They are wonderful tools for implementing
and learning about basic accessibility, but they only go so far.

So do you have to be an accessibility "expert" to determine if you are
truly accessible? Yes, for the most part, you do. That's why people
like us provide so many resources and materials freely to the public
so they can truly learn what accessibility is. However, the beauty of
the guidelines is that they get you the vast majority of the way there
without requiring a more advanced understanding of how people with
disabilities access and use the web, usability, assistive
technologies, etc.

Jared Smith