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Gian Sampson-Wild on WCAG 2.0’s concept of testability

In the latest A List Apart article, Testability Costs Too Much, Gian

Sampson-Wild points out why she believes WCAG 2.0’s tenet of testability to be fundamentally flawed.

The article’s example of how Guideline 1.1.1. (relating to text alternatives to non-text content) was watered down for testability purposes is interesting. However - and maybe I’m missing the point here - I don’t quite follow why the form that’s now in the latest working draft is supposed to be bad:

All non-text content has a text alternative that presents equivalent information, except for the situations listed below.

Gian points out the apparent problem of consistently applying testability throughout the entirety of the guidelines:

There are many instances in WCAG2 where success criteria are actually not testable—and the Working Group knows it. In Bugzilla, the Working Group’s issue tracking system, there is a tracked issue lodged by three Working Group members that reads: “In particular, the current wording [of WCAG2] does not seem testable. Words such as, “key,” “consistent,” “predictable,” “inconsistent,” and “unpredictable” are subjective.” Yet these terms have been used throughout WCAG2—there’s even an entire guideline that rests one of these subjective, non-testable terms:

Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.

Now, despite the use of subjective terms, I’d still maintain that those success criteria are actually testable in the context of human testing:

Reliably Human Testable: The technique can be tested by human inspection and it is believed that at least 80% of knowledgeable human evaluators would agree on the conclusion.

The WCAG Samurai Errata are mentioned as an example of a set of guidelines that don’t rely on testability but do give developers clear instructions on how to comply with relevant requirements. Let’s look at two examples from the Samurai:

Guideline 2. Don’t rely on colour alone [...] For actual content, do not set one confusable colour on top of another.

The Samurai mention confusable colour, but then just give an example of red type on a green or black background. Who says what is and isn’t a confusable colour combination? And, without a clause on testability, are the Samurai errata not more ambiguous and open to interpretation?

Guideline 3. Use markup and stylesheets and do so properly [...] Requirement to use HTML semantics [...] For ambiguous cases, you must use the elements and attributes that most closely fit your content even if other authors would disagree. [...] Other authors’ disagreement with your choices is not relevant to these errata. (emphasis added)

This almost sounds like “anti-testability”…but how is that a clear instruction?

Don’t get me wrong, Gian’s point that, because of testability, many valid guidelines and techniques - particularly for users with cognitive disabilities - did not make it into, or were removed from, WCAG 2.0 is indeed valid. The fact that, at least in part, testability was probably pushed through in the WCAG Working Group by those members (stakeholders?) involved in producing authoring/testing tools is deplorable, and certainly shows where some of the members’ priorities and (not so hidden) agendas lie. However, I personally can’t see how that leads to Gian’s conclusion:

With the publication of the WCAG Samurai Errata, the web community finally has a choice—and if WCAG 2.0 continues to be unworkable, developers will simply turn to another set of guidelines

…particularly since even the Samurai document (just like the current WCAG 2.0 Working Draft) acknowledges that:

Compliance with WCAG+Samurai cannot be a claim of full accessibility to people with cognitive disabilities.

Maybe it’s just me, but somehow I don’t see how guidelines can realistically be implemented and enforced (say in the context of a large university with multiple authors), unless there are actually testable sets of guidelines and success criteria / checkpoints?

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments (4) Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Accessibility, innovation, and the holistic approach

Should “web 2.0″ style mash-ups and virtual environments like Second Life be completely avoided in educational contexts because they can’t be made universally accessible? Or should sites take a holistic view in delivering their experiences, content, and learning outcomes in a far more flexible framework, adapted to different users and their differing needs, abilities, strengths and expectations? Can new technologies help in actually enhancing accessibility for certain user groups and help sites to engage with their audiences more effectively? In his post on Accessibility and Innovation, Brian Kelly gives a quick run-down of his talk The Accessible Web, which he recently gave at the Web Adept: UK Museums and the Web 2007 conference.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Learn to Teach for Free

I simply have to draw attention to an idea that Molly has come up with and posted about on her site today. She’s offering to teach 6 people at a time on a 2-day training session at her place, and all free of charge. Naturally the topic is standards (I know this is an accessibility site, but it’s still relevant), but ther are conditions to this great offer:

You demonstrate to me that you will take your knowledge forward to other educators, students, trainers and evangelists who can and will talk to their students and/or companies about standards.This is a MUST. I only will train people for FREE who can prove they are in education, technology training, or work with a company where they can provide in-depth training for their teams.

How awesome is that? But there’s another line that caught my attention:

I also challenge my colleagues to do the same formally.

So anyone up for that challenge on the accessibility front?

Comments (2) Posted by Ian on Thursday, June 21, 2007

Happy ‘Retirement’, Joe

Well, I would have done this earlier on this site but for the fact that I managed to log out of the admin page and then could not remember the password details and, somewhat untypically, didn’t have a note of it backed up in another obscure and passworded location. So I’ve been attempting log-ins for the last few days!

So, Joe Clark announced at @media Europe that he was "pretty much retired from web accessibility". As many of the readers of this site will know, Joe’s been focusing on a captioning project for a while now (link further down the page, should you wish to contribute) and there are more than enough experienced and web standards savvy web developers out there who are fighting the good fight where accessibility is concerned, many of whom probably learned the ropes from reading Joe’s seminal book on the topic. He can, therefore, claim to have left some kind of legacy.

However, a world of web accessibility without Joe’s presence will not be the same. Often outspoken, Joe has never shyed from saying what he feels, and sometimes to his own detriment (as Joe would freely admit):

" …market forces have shown that pretty much nobody wants to hire a sarcastic gay vegan to fix their Web accessibility"

While his guidance of the WCAG Samurai and other such side ventures are largely done, I suspect that this won’t be the last we’ll hear of Joe. The next time that something stupendously moronic crops up on the accessibility circuit (as I’m sure it will), I defy Joe to resist the temptation of very quickly hammering out a lengthy explanation of exactly how many mistakes have been made in the name of accessibility :-D

Good luck in your ‘retirement’ Joe, and keep us posted on the captioning progress.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments (2) Posted by Ian on Friday, June 15, 2007

Quick review of WCAG 2.0, May 2007 Working Draft

It’s been over a year since the request for review on the Last Call Working Draft of WCAG 2.0 (April 2006) originally went out. Many readers will remember the general level of dissatisfaction, or just plain bewilderment, that it provoked. So, has the latest version — Public Working Draft of WCAG 2.0 (May 2007) — taken on board the comments and criticisms that were raised?

Read the full article: A review of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, May 2007 Working Draft.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Monday, June 11, 2007

Yahoo!’s (got to love that exclamation mark) Victor Tsaran talks about screen readers

This has been sitting on my “to view” list for a few weeks:

Victor Tsaran is an accessibility engineer at Yahoo! who focuses on developing best practices for the creation of websites that work well with screen readers. In this video, he provides an introduction to some of the things that work well in the world of screen readers and others that fare more poorly.

See the video: Victor Tsaran: An Introduction to Screen Readers over on Yahoo! video.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments (2) Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Monday, June 4, 2007