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Re: Chronicle of Higher Education article"Colleges Lock Out Blind Students Online" Chronicle Articleand form control labeling


From: Dave Katten
Date: Dec 15, 2010 2:54PM

Hi list,
Long time lurker, but having worked on accessibility at 2 of the
institutions (both lower ranking than I think they deserve), I thought I'd
share some of my concerns.

1) I considered using the FAE as a primary tool in the past, but opted
instead for WAVE, and I think Jon and the UCITA gang might benefit from some
feedback as to why. Critically, the Functional Accessibility Evaluator is
not any of the 3 things it claims in its name. It is not Functional (nor
does it assist in the determination of functional accessibility), because it
is, as its authors state, a set of coding style rules that _perhaps_ will
lead to a more streamlined site. It checks many rules that, I think pretty
clearly, have nothing to do with accessibility. While some (like Jon's
defense of form labeling) do qualify as being accessibility related, many do
not (see John F.'s various responses). Lastly, it really is not an
evaluator, nor an evaluation tool. When I use WAVE, the red icons are clear
indicators of _barriers_, rather than with FAE's failures, which I then have
to check to see if there's a barrier. That is, if something fails FAE (not
just warn, but fail), I still have to go in and manually check. This is of
no use to me, personally. Please don't take this as a "your tool sux0rz lol"
rant; I just thought you might like some user feedback.

2) I do think there's a place for coding style guidelines like the ones
developed by UCITA, although I, like John F. find several of them perplexing
(to put it mildly). And I'm willing to concede that perhaps a university
policy should have rules like "no layout tables". But there needs to be a
process/remedy for sites that don't employ the best practices, but are still
accessible. Such a discussion is painfully absent from the Chronicle
article, and from what I can tell, the UCITA guidelines (though feel free to
point me to one).

3) Doing this sort of analysis takes a great amount of time and effort on
the part of Jon and/or his staff. It is really concerning to me that given
the thought that must have gone into this ranking, there doesn't appear to
be any recognition of the negative impact that a ranking the Chronicle might
have (I'm not saying it didn't cross their mind, but I haven't seen much
evidence in terms of the comments here or the substance of the article.) For
instance, how many of the low ranking schools have people hired specifically
to do accessibility, and who have created _accessible sites_ are now going
to be hauled in front of a CIO and asked to defend their job? That's a worst
case scenario, but certainly Mr. Gunderson had to consider that possibility,
no? The audience of the Chronicle is not IT specialists, or access
advocates, or people who are generally equipped to digest and critique this
information; they're presidents and administrators who care about bottom
lines and institutional reputation.

4) Articles in the Chronicle of Higher Ed that focus on access and the
challenges of institutionalizing accessible practices are, in general, a
good thing. I expect that many campuses that were looking for ways to obtain
buy-in on accessibility will be able to point to this article and say "see?
We need more support". But it's a shame that that support will be based on
inaccurate, artificial, and in some ways orthogonal rankings. I'm a big
proponent of raising awareness, but like others question the use of UCITA
guidelines. I would much prefer a detailed look at say, 1 school per
conference, that, well, evaluated the functional accessibility of a sample
of the site. While it loses the impact of rankings, it makes up for it with
an actionable survey of the state of university web development practices.

5) I know neither Jon nor John F. personally, nor do I think anyone on this
list. But I have no doubt that we're all on the same team. I like to think
we all agree on that point.

Dave Katten

On Wed, Dec 15, 2010 at 2:57 PM, Tim Harshbarger <
<EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:

> It is obvious that the publication of this article has raised concerns
> and caused some discussions. I think a serious discussion about testing
> methodologies and accessibility approaches is extremely valuable to the
> WebAIM community in general.
> However, as an accessibility colleague, I would like to ask people
> refrain from including comments that seem to assume that others have
> maligned intent or self-interest. They tend to make it more difficult
> for me to discern what the core discussion is. Also, my personal
> opinion is that such comments make other list members less likely to ask
> questions or add their thoughts to the discussion.
> Thanks!
> Tim