Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

The ATF has put a lot of effort into looking at the world to analyse the issues standing in the way of broader accessibility for everyone. Having worked out the problems we face and what we are willing to tackle, we are now happy to present the Accessibility Task Force manifesto.

In a nutshell, we will work with all of the parties involved in producing web tools, content, and assistive technology to ensure:

  • that all assistive technologies used to assist web browsing understand the whole of the HTML, XHTML, DOM and CSS recommendations.
  • that the manufacturers of assistive technologies transparently document their products’ capabilities and behaviour in terms of standards support and scripting.
  • that all Content Management Systems produce semantic, accessible, valid and lean code straight out of the box.
  • that CMS vendors make certain that people with disabilities can easily use their tools to produce Web content.
  • that web developers use web standards to produce their websites and, where possible, they test them with assistive technologies and with people with disabilities to ensure that they are both accessible and usable.
  • that the community remember that the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are only part of the puzzle—the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG), User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) and in fact the Document Object Model (DOM) are web standards too.

In addition, I promise to try to use British spellings in order to minimise (see?) collaborative editing problems.

Your feedback is welcome. What have we missed? Whom should we approach first? What do web professionals need most to make it transparently easy to enable users with disabilities? Feel free to use the comments below.

Your Replies

#1 On April 19th, 2006 4:51 pm Bruce Lawson’s personal site   : WaSP ATF manifesto launched replied:

[...] The first draft was written 6 months ago after a few pints. It’s been debated, and debated, and committeed, and the pseudo-word “leveraged” has got in there, and has come out better for all that. The Web Standards Project’s Accessibility Task Force manifesto is published. [...]

#2 On April 20th, 2006 5:24 am Dave replied:

Where do i sign? where do i sign…

#3 On April 20th, 2006 6:48 am Isofarro replied:

Matt, and all the members of the Accessibility Task Force, the Manifesto is a great start, full of promise, optimism, and more importantly, full of passion. I’m heartened to see that what’s been lined out above complements and highlights the key portions of PAS 78 (from a web developer perspective).

You have my full support. And good luck! I look forward to working alongside you in the future.

In terms of who to approach first, definitely the assistive technology vendors. They need to start working with us to deliver an accessible experience. Granted they’ve previously had to do a lot of work trying to hack their way through tag-soup, we are delivering markup that’s superior in terms of semantics, structure, and accessibility cues, so we are offering them product features which should be easier to implement – for example list navigation, header outlining, table summaries, abbreviations.

At the high end, DOM support is particularly important – brothercake has highlighted inconsistencies through to inaccessibilities with simple AJAX scripts which update the DOM dynamically. screen readers need to work with DOM and events to ensure the content updated there is available to their users.

The web standards are there, and I think firstly we need to understand why assistive technologies don’t fully support them. What problems are they having trying to support web standards and websites built from web standards – are the browsers creating a problem that needs to be addresses -in the case of Windows-bases assistive technology, is MSAA not supplying the proper DOM information through to them, does the specification not make sense or is it impractical? Certainly we need to encourage them to bring their tools into compliance.

#4 On April 21st, 2006 11:55 am Tomas Caspers replied:

Mike, yes, AT vendors are in fact at the top of our priority list. And that goes beyond screen readers, but also includes magnifiers and alls sorts of other assistive technologies (including web browsers itself – anyone remember UAAG?). We are at a point where AT sometimes better understands tag soup and chokes on proper markup, so this needs to be fixed also from a user perspective. Having to restart yout AT because an author did the right thing doesn’t help selling the idea of web standards.
And the research brothercake posted over at the accessifyforum has a chilling effect, yes – we’re looking into that as well, watch this space.
Regarding MSAA – there’s a tool from Microsoft that outputs what is passed through MSAA. You’ll be amazed how much information is in there that actually never makes it out of the speaker or onto the braille keyboard.

#5 On April 21st, 2006 2:43 pm Jeff replied:

“What do web professionals need most to make it transparently easy to enable users with disabilities?”

Better automated testing tools (for WCAG at least).

#6 On April 27th, 2006 4:46 am Isofarro replied:

“Better automated testing tools (for WCAG at least).”

That misses the point of what web accessibility is about – removing barrier we create that present problems for people. The key fundamental concept is its about people – not technology. WCAG is written on the basis of problems people with disabilities face when using the web. You cannot factor out the human element, and as a result, “better automated testing tools” cannot cover any major portion of any accessibility guidelines.

Ignore the human aspect, and you ignore what it is to be accessible. People are not robots, so an automated tool cannot succeed in detecting or highlighting barrier to access.

Relying on automated tools for accessibility is harmful. Better automated tools do nothing to remove or lessen the proper usability and accessibility testing with disabled people or the thought required by an experienced web developer. Automated tools are not the solution – they only redefine the problem to suit themselves.

#7 On April 29th, 2006 12:32 am Max Design - standards based web design, development and training » Blog Archive » Some links for light reading (26/4/04) replied:

[...] Accessibility TF Manifesto [...]

#8 On July 1st, 2006 1:45 pm Aaron replied:

It has to be accessible for everyone !

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