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Re: Microsoft Word question


From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Apr 20, 2005 10:47AM

On Wed, 20 Apr 2005, Christian Heilmann wrote:

>>> > http://outer-court.com/tech/top-10-errors-in-web-design.html

["Top 10 Errors in Web Design", with
item 9 being "PDF, DOC, and Other Non-HTML Formats"]

>> That applies in teletubbyland, but in the real world you will have
>> loads of documents that are maintained in Word and automatic
>> conversion creates useless HTML.

The real world is hostile to many people with disabilities,
and quite often, insult is added to injury by hypocritical actions like
a) issuing declarations on accessibility without trying to actually
change anything (especially if it would cost something),
b) making accessibility statements and showing off WCAG or 508 icons
on pages that cannot be accessed by disabled people (and could
be rather below the average in this respect)
c) telling people to download this or that program, like Adobe
Acrobat Reader or Word Viewer, as if such statements and
associated links would help the least - except silence
someone's conscience
d) giving them "alternate versions", which are usually second-class
versions for second-class citizens
e) throwing away all concerns and complaints and observations
once one can claim conformance to some "accessibility standard".
(Claims to 508 conformance can be true, but that would not make the
page accessible. Claims to WCAG 1.0 conformance are always false,
sometimes consciously false.)

>> I have no idea about the 508 compliance of word tables, but IMHO the
>> most usable ideais to link to PDFs and explain that you'd need acrobat
>> reader to read them.

That would add a factually false statement. I don't need Adobe Acrobat
Reader to read PDF documents.

In general, Word format is less inaccessible that PDF, so if you aren't
going to be accessible, Word is a better format. Making both Word and PDF
available is of course better than either of them alone.

As mentioned in this discussion, any links to Word or PDF documents should
be clearly described as such, using normal text, preferably before the
link. I think in this context, we need to treat a small, widely recognized
icon with an adequate alt text as corresponding to normal text.

>> Offer a way to contact you should the need for a text-only (whatever
>> that will be) version occur. That way you have done most you can and
>> offered an alternative way, and this is a practical solution.

You would have done approximately nothing in the direction of
accessibility. It would be a little more than nothing, but not much.
It's harmless as such, as long as you don't think you've done most you
can, or something useful, or even sufficient.

>> Yes, a perfect solution would be to offer the text in standard conform
>> HTML with all accessibility enhancing attributes and a proper
>> structure, and given the chance you should try to do that.

It's simply the solution. The rest is just talk about explaining why you
haven't solved people's problems.

However, I make reservations with that "accessibility enhancing
attributes". Many attributes purported to be accessibility attributes
actually reduce accessibility (e.g., accesskey and tabindex, in most
cases). HTML tables are tough in accessibility, and extra attributes
might help, but it is unrealistic to expect anyone to type them by hand.
Besides, even with those attributes, tables are a major problem in
accessibility unless they are fairly simple. Authors should focus on
making tables simple and logical, rather than trying to improve the
accessibility of hopelessly confused tables by throwing attributes here
and there.

-- Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/