‘Carthage must be destroyed’

Were you hoping, as I faintly was, that the head of the World Wide Web Consortium and the inventor of the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, might bring the WCAG Working Group to heel and make them produce something vaguely usable in the way of accessibility guidelines?

Well, you can stop.

[H]e acknowledged that accessibility is failing the “essential aspect” he described back in 1997 when announcing the launch of the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative…. “That is a concern,” he said of today’s generally poor standard of Web accessibility…. Berners-Lee… pointed out that his WAI team is working hard on a new set of guidelines to address accessibility. Version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, has been long awaited and the working draft is near completion…. Berners-Lee is not suggesting that WCAG 2.0 will present a quick fix for Web accessibility, but it should answer some of the criticisms of the current version.

One such criticism is that WCAG 1.0 is difficult to apply to technological developments on the Web. Berners-Lee seemed to understand this concern. “I was having a conversation with someone the other day about video blogging,” he said. “Does a video blogger need captioning? It’s not easy to do.”

So he suggested a novel approach “What about community captioning? The video blogger posts his blog – and the Web community provides the captions that help others.”

When… asked whether he thinks further regulation is necessary to improve accessibility, Berners-Lee declined to take sides. Diplomatically, he pointed out that regulation is not his field of expertise. “What I would say is that everyone should reference the same guidelines,” he said.

His point is that W3C has written the de facto standard, but governments and non-governmental organisations have seen fit to write their own versions. “You can’t design a site and try to make it compete with 152 different sets of guidelines from 152 different states,” he said. “Keeping the standards homogenous is really important.”

In short, everyone should follow WCAG.

  • There aren’t “152 states” proposing accessibility guidelines. Whoever wrote their own from scratch did so because WCAG 1 wasn’t good enough.
  • Of course the head of the chauvinistic W3C wants his and only his guidelines followed.
  • Video on the Web is not a “technological development” that WCAG 1.0 is “difficult to apply to.”
  • If you leave it up to unspecified tens of thousands of viewers to caption unspecified thousands of segments of video, it ain’t gonna happen – and even if it does, the result will be shite.

Berners-Lee seems to be following the lead of his former employee, who simply gave up on the task of transcribing his own podcasts and turned to the LazyWeb. Deaf people need captioning, not “fanscription.”

If the inventor of the Web says you can just loll around waiting for somebody else to make your own content accessible, then Web accessibility is fucked.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.05.25 16:51. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
http://blog.fawny.org/2006/05/25/tbl-jumps-shark/

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