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Canada's Common Look and Feel (sorta) explained (was RE: [WebAIM]This week's article: Content Language)

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From: John Foliot - WATS.ca
Date: Jan 23, 2006 2:15PM


Jukka K. Korpela wrote:
> On Mon, 23 Jan 2006, John Foliot - WATS.ca wrote:
>
>> Standard 7.5
>> (http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/clf-nsi/inter/inter-07-05_e.asp)
>
> I have difficulties in finding out what the "standard" is. Is it
> something defined by the national standards body, or a rule issued by
> some government body, or part of the law? But probably government
> officials are more or less forced to comply with it.
>

The standard is a Federally mandated set of rules regarding web content,
issued by and on behalf of the Government of Canada
(http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/clf-nsi). It is broken down into 7 distinct
areas of which "accessibility" is Section 1. Other areas of interest
are the Section 6 standards (design and layout - warning the visual
people got to this!) and Section 7 - Official Languages, which
synthesizes various existing language laws and applies them to Federal
web development. It has been Official Government Policy since 2000, and
while it has not yet been challenged in the courts, is the type of
policy/legislation that is in place to address these types of things.

The initial thrust of the CLF standards was to address equality (human
rights issues) as well as ensure that the public face of the GoC was
consistent across all departments and agencies - that there was an
authoritive "feel" that assured "clients" that they were dealing with
the Government of Canada at all times. In an earlier incarnation of one
of my private sites (www.bytowninternet.com), I had echoed the look and
feel, and, as it turned out, a little too closely. I received a phone
call with a saber rattling functionary on the other end, threatening me
if I did not make some changes... Humph! (but I did, who needs to go to
battle over trivialities?)

>> All Web pages on all GoC Web sites must incorporate navigational
>> buttons
>
> Good grief - they really require buttons that contain the names of the
> languages, rather than semantics links. It seems to be a rather direct
> consequence of the ideological principle about equal emphasis on the
> languages. I wonder why they still allow the English button to appear
> _first_ (i.e., on the left), instead of requiring a randomized order.
> :-)
>

Well... By button what they are referring to is usually in the "Standard
Navigational Bar" as mandated in the Section 6 Standards.
http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/clf-nsi/fip-pcim/nav5_e.asp, right down to
specific pixel measurements (!!) (Note: I am not actually advocating for
this - in fact I personally think it is stoopid, but they didn't ask me
now did they? <grin>)

While they claim to be flexible on the choice of images or text links,
the physical size of the Common Navigational Bar is explicitly stated (I
warned you above: http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/clf-nsi/fip-pcim/40_e5.jpg).
Text links are fine.

Re: the ideological principle of equal language emphasis is of
significant importance here (rightly or wrongly). And Jukka, under
certain circumstances the English "button" (link) must come second.

>> (a) Language buttons on Welcome pages must be displayed in the manner
>> indicated to ensure visual equality and continuity.
>
> So they _require_ splash pages, i.e. intentional obstacles.
>

Well, even you agree that there is no 100% guaranteed method of ensuring
equality any other way. The politics of this is significant in Canada,
and has nothing to do with the web, but rather history and current
events ;)

>> (b) Language navigation buttons on all Content Pages of bilingual Web
>> sites must be incorporated in the common menu bar. The language
>> button must hyperlink directly to the identical content in the
>> alternate official language.
>
> This sounds reasonable, except for the buttonism. If I stumble across
> a page in English e.g. by following a link somewhere, perhaps after a
> Google search, then I have _no_ idea of where I am except through my
> understanding of English. (Well, the government logo is bilingual, so
> I know I'm on Canada pages.) My point is that this is poor
> bilingualism, since there is no hint in the other language about the
> content of the page.
>
> On the positive side, the policy seems to be against bilingual pages,
> in favor of bilingual sites consisting of interlinked monolingual
> pages.

Right, and with the standardization of the Common Menu bar "buttons",
the first link will automatically take you to the equivalent page in the
other official language. While it may seem obtuse, it is actually a
fairly efficient method, all things considered.

While the CLF has it's detractors and flaws, overall the idea behind it
is and remains laudable, and in the absence of anything else, works well
enough. It *was* the first legislation of it's kind in the world that
specifically entrenched web accessibility as a mandate, so it can't be
all bad <smile>.

Hope this was of some interest to some.

Cheers!

JF