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RE: Coding for Standards--comments please


From: Hoffman, David
Date: Mar 17, 2004 9:08AM

A very good question! My personal opinion is that you are both correct and

1) It would be wonderful if developers could just design to standards and
leave the rest up to the assistive technology. Various developers and
accessibility tool vendors have told me just that: they develop or test to
standards, not specific assistive technologies. The truth is that it just
does not work -- and not merely because of assistive technology
shortcomings. The standards are too limited and incomplete. And sometimes
the development technology is simply lacking the necessary features as well.
Merely coding to standards will not result in software that is truly
accessible. I agree with the ideal, but it is not (yet) a reality.

2) You make a very good point about assistive technology shortcomings. I
believe that if an issue is caused by an assistive technology shortcoming,
the application should not be faulted or found to be not compliant with
Section 508. In fact, I believe that holding developers responsible for
issues that they did not create and have no way to fix actually hurts the
cause of achieving more accessible software. Developers become legitimately
frustrated and less cooperative. Legalities not withstanding, it does hurt
the cause. Instead, the assistive technology vendor must be notified and
required to correct the shortcomings.

3) That said, developers should be willing to implement reasonable
workarounds for shortcomings when necessary and practical. When we stop
holding them responsible for issues that they did not create and have no way
to fix, they are likely to be more willing and flexible about creating these

The reason why I believe that an application can be considered Section 508
compliant even if it is affected by assistive technology shortcomings is
because Section 508 Subpart B repeatedly requires the availability of
information to assistive technology, rather than the performance of
assistive technology. Testing with assistive technology can demonstrate this
availability, or the potential lack of availability. It cannot necessarily
prove lack of availability. Consider these Section 508 excerpts:

* The focus shall be programmatically exposed so that assistive technology
can track focus and focus changes. --