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


From: Hoffman, Allen
Date: Dec 16, 2010 12:51PM

In my opinion inconsistency in the IT accessibility community as a whole
is a major contributor to the slow, and inconsistent progress we see as
a whole. Identifying a common set of consistently applied requirements
is critical for success. When there is no right answer, everything is
OK, and from experience most of us probably would agree this is not the
best way to achieve accessibility across the board.

WCAG 2.0 has a great amount of valuable standards that can be applied in
consistent fashion. If something is left out of WCAG 2.0 it's not for
lack of asking on the group's part. I think there is significant room
for improvement in consistently providing "how to" information for
various platforms. The lack of centrally located, consistently
developed, and complete how to guidance to meet the WCAG 2.0 standards
for the wide range of platforms in use today leads to inconsistent
efforts by developers. For example, recently the VA released a very
comprehensive course on creation of accessible flash--something that has
been sorely needed in that development community for some time now.
Kudos to the VA folks.

Finally, personally I believe periodic accessibility reporting with
consistently applied metrics would be an enormous value to all
stakeholders, but needs to be designed to provide those who make
decisions about such Web content the ability to understand their
results, and use the metrics to direct change.

-----Original Message-----
From: Gunderson, Jon R [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ]
Sent: Thursday, December 16, 2010 1:02 PM
To: WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: Re: [WebAIM] Chronicle of Higher Education article"Colleges
Lock Out Blind Students Online" Chronicle Articleand form control

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,

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

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

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-----
[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

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
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