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Re: Re[2]: WAI Icons. Was: Include default text?


From: Philip Kiff
Date: Oct 25, 2004 12:24PM

>> I've not heard these arguments against putting accessibility icons on
>> home pages before.

> Then I think I need to refer to the treatise
> http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/html/validation.html#icon
> which explains why they, as well HTML validity and CSS "validity" icons
> are much worse than useless.

Thanks for the link, Jukka. Much food for thought. I haven't thought
through the issues your raise in this way before so that's helpful to read.
You make some strong arguments (and make them stridently!), though I'm not
100% convinced yet.

Couple quick counterpoints/questions:

> There is no web accessibility standard, and even as a loose
> recommendation, WCAG 1.0 is partly outdated -

Well, okay so it's not a "standard" in the sense of the ISO standards or
DTD's, but isn't it the closest thing to a standard that we've got? Aside
from the semantics of it, the WCAG and Bobby are the two best-recognized
icons currently used to represent or claim something about web
accessibility. If that's the choice, then I prefer the WCAG.

> And mysterious and misunderstood icons add to the confusion. So
> does the general confusion between accessibility, WCAG 1.0
> conformance, and passing some tests (like Bobby). Three different
> things. If you equate any two of them, you have missed something
> very fundamental in accessibility.

I think I understand well enough the difference between the W3C WCAG, HTML
validity icons, and Bobby, though I am sure that I'm still learning some of
the nuances with some of these things. But while they are all certainly
different things, they all can, broadly speaking, be said to relate to
accessibility. I'm in favour of picking ONE logo (or one connected system
of logos) related to accessibility and promoting it. Regardless of whether
it's a conformance icon, or a validity stamp, or a test-passing stamp.

I guess the _clearest and simplest_ method to deal with accessibility
statements or claims would be to use an Accessibility Statement, but is
there no role for a graphic symbol? It seems it should have a role
alongside the work done by the text of an Accessibility Statement. As far
as promotional/propaganda activities go, an icon/symbol/logo usually
improves the effectiveness and visibility of the marketing strategy doesn't

In the article you argue, quite correctly I think, that the icon for the
WCAG is not very good - it is not culturally neutral and the letters WCAG
mean nothing on their own so the icon fails as a symbol in that sense. But
I guess I see it as the most widely accepted logo, regardless of its
weaknesses. I would argue in favour of changing the logo, but until that
happens and it is accepted generally, then the current W3C WCAG logo has the
advantage of being widespread and "officially" identified with the W3C.

My thinking up till now has been that it would be worthwhile trying to teach
people what W3C and the WCAG stand for. Maybe I need to rethink this, but
whether people misunderstand what the WCAG is or what the icons mean is not
so important to me as getting people to know that there is such a thing as
WCAG. Further understanding can come later. I don't feel bad about
"misleading" them by putting a logo on a site in the way you suggest in the
article (at least not yet!). I would feel bad about putting an icon on one
of my webpages which turned out to be a false claim of compliance, but I
don't see that as the end of the world, either -- I would hope that someone
who knew better would correct me or that a user who had difficulties with
the site would correct me. None of it is going to be perfect, and I don't
expect that all sites that use the icon will use it perfectly. I'm not sure
if it would bother me to know that as many as 75% of sites probably misuse
the icon. It is self-regulating and until many, many more sites use it,
there will be wide variation in the way the icon is implemented. I suppose
that by the time a "web accessibility"-related icon has achieved such deep
penetration into the market that it is generally understood and more or less
accurately used, the whole purpose of the icon as a disability-awareness
tool would be no longer needed, so I don't see the use of such compliance
icons lasting more than 5 more years as a web trend. That will also depend
on how quickly web development and content management system software become
standards compliant with respect to the HTML/XHTML/XML they produce.

I see the raising awareness and education as processes that take time:
people will go through different stages of understanding. And different
people will be interested to different degrees. I learned about the WCAG by
becoming curious about the WCAG icons. Maybe that is just a phase in the
development of web accessibility skills, but I find it a lot harder to
encourage web accessibility without having recourse to some kind of
guidelines to point to. And the WCAG seem the most legitimate to me,
despite various problems.

I will mull over the issues you raise in the article a bit more this week
and see if I can put anything more cogent down in response.


Philip Kiff
Networking & Information Consultant
New Brunswick Easter Seal March of Dimes