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RE: WAI needs to rethink and revisit

for

From: Jukka Korpela
Date: May 21, 2002 6:32AM


John Foliot wrote:

> I believe that
> most countries in the EU are also looking at making the WAI Guidelines
> government "standards" (Euro-listers? Any news?)

Not quite. There is quite a lot of accessibility related activity within the
EU, both at the national level and at the EU level, but the trend is to
recommend, promote, and encourage rather than require and force, or even set
formal standards. The eAccessibility program of EU strongly promotes WAI
guidelines, and so do several national recommendations. There's a summary of
the situation in 2001:
http://europa.eu.int/information_society/eeurope/action_plan/eaccess/member_
states/targets_2001_2002/index_en.htm
But W3C's WAI policy links partly contain more up-to-date info:
http://www.w3.org/WAI/Policy/

This has both pros and cons as compared with legislation-oriented approach.
It is easy to take recommendations as "only recommendations", especially in
situations where the designer has lots of other recommendations to consider,
and requirements too. On the other hand, many people (including the
proverbially stubborn Finns) tend to take governmental requirements and
regulation as something to be opposed by default - and to be taken by the
letter only and not by spirit, if taking by the letter is easier. And as we
know, accessibility is largely about spirit. You can e.g. obey the letter of
a requirement of having an alt attribute for every <img> element by using
the same attribute for all images, irrespective of meaning. :-(

What I regard as optimal goal at the national level is a general
recommendation on Web design (in usability, accessibility, and other
respects) by a forum that represents public, private, and third sector.
Making private companies and nongovernmental organizations involved in the
process of creating recommendations will affect their general acceptance.
And that process should be a genuine discussion, not just an attempt to
"sell" WAI guidelines. And the recommendation should be accompanied with
publicly available material on how to improve accessibility. I'm afraid most
of the WAI material, and most of our discussions in this list, no matter how
useful, are far beyond the current reach of average Web authors, not to
mention sub-average authors.

(In fact, even if we think about the possibility of enforcing accessibility
by law, something like the process outlined above would be essential. Laws
are generally enforced more easily if regarded as useful, or at least
acceptable, by many people.)

--
Jukka Korpela
TIEKE Tietoyhteiskunnan kehitt