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


From: Gunderson, Jon R
Date: Dec 16, 2010 11:03AM

I would just like to note that I did not write the Chronicle Article, Marc Perry did.

He was writing an article on the student with blindness and found my data in the Educause archive and interviewed me.

I hope people read the whole Chronicle article it is not just about the data I collected.

The Chronicle, not me, decided to use the data I presented as a part of my poster presentation at the 2010 Educause Conference in Anaheim, California.

There is a place to comment on the presentation at the Educause website for those who wish to do so.

I think if people look more closely at the best practices they will hopefully have a better understanding of the rules and why they are useful.

The more I listen to people about their evaluation practices it is clear to me there is no common concept of "accessible design", there seems to be a lot of different opinions on what parts of WCAG 2.0 or Section 508 are more important to implement and what needs to be done to meet the requirement and even more important what is needed for functional accessibility and usability by people with disabilities . Some requirements like WCAG 2.0 1.2.3 "Audio Description or Media Alternative (Prerecorded, Level A)" and the corresponding Section 508 requirement 1194.24(d) "All training and informational video and multimedia productions which support the agency's mission, regardless of format, that contain visual information necessary for the comprehension of the content, shall be audio described" are ignored as far as I can tell.

I think it would help the web accessibility community if there is a more uniform understanding of what it means to design accessible web resources and to have a more common set of practices to give to web developers for accessible design and resources to perform accessibility quality assurance checks on their web resources.

I hope this discussion will eventually lead to a more fruit full discussion on accessible design and evaluation/QA best practices.


-----Original Message-----
From: <EMAIL REMOVED> [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ] On Behalf Of Dave Katten
Sent: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 3:50 PM
To: WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: Re: [WebAIM] Chronicle of Higher Education article"Colleges Lock Out Blind Students Online" Chronicle Articleand form control labeling

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 st
ill 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 institu
tional 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