WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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RE: OpenDocument format, inaccessible?


From: Robinson, Norman B - Washington, DC
Date: Oct 14, 2005 11:20AM

On Friday, October 14, 2005, Regarding the Subject: [WebAIM]
OpenDocument format, inaccessible?, holly [ <EMAIL REMOVED> ] asked:
"Should we avoid using standards when some users are limited by a
proprietary system and user agents (devices) with proprietary

First, my definition of proprietary implies a product not conforming to
standards, or only relies on the assumption the use of standards that
are not open or that have cost before use not fully disclosed to the
user. My definition of standard is something having a recognized and
permanent value, freely available for use. I prefer the reader assume
standard is equivalent to open standard, unless explicitly stated

1. Should we avoid using standards?
No. Standards help inventors and developers. Standards set a expectation
for a level of quality and reliability. Standards reduce problems in the
exchange of electronic information and interoperation of technology.

2. Exceptions? Should we avoid standards when some users are limited by
proprietary limitations?
No. We should always push for a standard. You shouldn't take this as an
extreme permission to make changes without considering how you get to
using standards based technology. Users are limited by the use of badly
implemented technology - not because of the standard.

3. How do we ensure "some users" aren't limited?
The best long term approach is to have standards, and have all systems
and agents use those standards. This is even more important when
proprietary products are in use. In the federal space, laws such as
Section 508 require accessibility as a baseline to help ensure all users
have access. Even if the technical aspects make that impossible based on
the specific product selected, providers must still "find a way".

Holly also asked "Is Massachusetts government breaking rules or
guidelines by following or implementing open standards solutions?"

4. Could you ask a specific more question or state a guide you think is
at issue?
I think that would add to the discussion rather than create noise. As
posted, you simply linked to outside information without clear purpose
beyond awareness of the controversy. If you have a well formed
discussion appropriate to this list, I welcome the debate! I also look
forward to the government's success and look forward to them addressing
the problems involved in the transition, including ensuring all users
have full access. I am certain that they have the potential to do just
that, if they continue keeping the needs of every citizen in mind.


Norman B. Robinson