E-mail List Archives

Re: Fixing WAI's writing styleDoes WCAG require ...

for

From: Chagnon | PubCom.com
Date: Nov 25, 2015 12:09PM


> But asking WAI to hire professional writers is like asking WebAIM to
> fix the web's accessibility. There isn't a clear way for it to happen.

No, not the same situation.
WebAIM doesn't write the standards.

Speaking as someone with several decades experience working with US Federal government agencies to edit and publish regulations and standards, the burden of clearly communicating the standards to the audience is on the entity that writes and controls the standards. For WCAG, that's W3C/WAI.

In the US, federal law requires all federal agencies to do this under the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (and previous iterations and policies over the past 30 years). http://www.plainlanguage.gov/plLaw/ A subsequent Executive Order specifically requires that all regulations be written in plain language and are easy to understand. Similar plain-language laws are in place in other countries.

When the US Access Board releases the 508 Refresh, WCAG and PDF/UA will become part of the US Federal regulations "by reference." And when that happens, the Sec. 508 Refresh will be violating the government's plain language law already in place.

This is a major problem that will affect everyone in the accessibility community; 3 separate pieces of federal legislation/regulations/orders that conflict with each other. When this has happened in the past, all legislation/regulations/orders were put "on hold" until the problems can be worked out or one or more of the pieces is knocked down, possibly determined by the Supreme Court.

W3C/WAI write and control WCAG. The PDF/UA organization works with the ISO on PDF/UA standards.

Therefore, they -- and only these organizations -- are responsible for providing their standards and guidelines (which act as pseudo-regulations) in clearly written language that anyone can understand.

W3C/WAI must hire the professional writers and editors to do this. It's their baby, not anyone else's...therefore it is their responsibility. They must act like a professional standards committee and do their job...don't ask volunteers to do this job. W3c has enough information to require 3-4 full-time editors.

Otherwise, we'll have 2 possible outcomes:
1) Lots of rebuttal lawsuits and complaints about WCAG and PDF/UA not being understandable. WCAG especially provides a very good loophole for "undue burden" because it's so poorly written and incomprehensible.
2) Eventual erosion of our US Sec. 508 law (and others worldwide) that could throw everything out the window. We could end up without any laws requiring accessibility anywhere...putting us back to 1995 again.

PDF/UA is fairly well-written and understandable.
WCAG is not. Pure computer-techno-babble gobblygook.

W3C/WAI, if you truly are dedicated to accessibility, fix the problem. It's your responsibility.
Hire full-time, real, professional writers, editors, and communicators.

Relying on volunteers, committees, and programmers to do this is not helping achieve our ultimate goal: worldwide accessibility of information.

--Bevi Chagnon