[games_access] URGENT: WCAG2 and people with learning disabilities

AudioGames.net richard at audiogames.net
Sat May 27 15:49:28 EDT 2006


Accessibility is part of the Dutch National Center of Excellence and member 
of the EU eAccessibility interim Expert Group. In 2003, we advised the EU on 
techniques and methodologies for evaluating Web accessibility. As a member 
of W3C we participate in work for the Web Accessibility Initiative (EOWG and 
*quote end* (http://www.accessibility.nl/algemeen/over?languageId=2)

So hopefully you understand that "them" includes me and Sander and our 
foundation... ;)

What I have come to learn in the years I dealt with web accessibility is 
that it *is* complicated matter that should not be taken lightly. Guidelines 
like WCAG *define* what web accessibility *is* - *for all disabilities*. The 
problem is, next to WCAG, there are many national guidelines and 
international guidelines out there. There are 30+ logo's that people can put 
on their website to show that they're accessible. There are checktools that 
claim they can check 100% of the accessibility of a website.  But all of 
these tools and logo's and guidelines differ from each other and leave room 
for interpretation of how accessible web accessibility is.
I believe nobody is really happy with this and in my experience many people 
want to harmonise all of these guidelines, logo's and tools. But, as 
standardisation goes, nobody agrees on the standard. Industries and big 
companies, for example, want to stick to their own (often a self-regulation) 
standard - if companies agree among themselves it is accessible, then it is. 
Which it almost never isn't of course, when compared to other standards. 
Governments deal with foundations that work together with W3C and that 
promote WCAG, while on the other hand the accessibility of those government 
websites are checked by institutions which use their own checking methods 
and standards. Sometimes governments rather want to stick with a check tool, 
since that's simple and cheap.

The reason that guidelines like WCAG will make your head spin after 10 
minutes of reading is that it tries to define what web accessibility is 
without leaving room for interpretation. This is important, especially for 
government and company websites, since they are likely to be sued if they 
don't comply with the guidelines. It's usually quite easy to prove that a 
person with a visual handicap cannot access a certain part of a website 
since the information isn't routed to his braillereader (because the text is 
an image and not ASCII text). But it is a lot harder to define whether or 
not a certain image contains important information or is just decoration. 
The link Barrie referred was an interesting read and I agree with many of 
the author's compaints (especially the "programmatically determined" ;) ). 
However, what alternative is there? Jonathan wrote that "there are 
guidelines published by other groups that  will make content much more 
accessible to these (learning disabled) users.". The problem is that if you 
define web accessibility by multiple interpretations groups (from different 
countries), then there is no standard. You might end up with a government 
saying: we're accessible for the deaf according to the X standard, 
accessible for learning disabled according to Y standard, etc... in that 
waying selecting those standards that fit their website the best. I know 
this is not what Jonathan is saying, but I think that this might be what it 
would come down to. And what if those standards do not comply with each 
other? Who defines that? By the way, any organisation that has published 
guidelines for making content much more accessible, would be dumb if they 
would not join the WCAG development team - in order to get their guidelines 
into WCAG and make sure that other guidelines in WCAG comply with their own?

Michelle said that:

You might want to make an accessible website but who wants to read through 
manuals of stuff that looks more like machine code than "guidelines".
*quote end*

But you have to know that many professional webdesigners do. Do not 
underestimate that, it is their field and they can even have a financial 
benefit if they can design accessible websites and their competitant can't. 
A cook should also be able to read a recipe and cook for someone on a diet. 
Again, I agree that the documents take effort to read. So I would personally 
prefer a simplified front end version that is easy to read and explains the 
basics, etc. to (quote) "...anyone trying make a simple webpage". *BUT* this 
in my opinion should not be the only version, since a simpified version is 
likely to leave room for interpretation.
Honestly, based on my experience, I can't imagine that WCAG 2.0 does not 
leave a single inch of interpretation. But I do think that it narrows down 
the options.

Next to this all: the internet keeps developing dynamically. "Web 2.0 
apps/environments" like MySpace, YouTube, Flickr turn consumers into 
prosumers, websurfers into webbuilders. Anyone who has ever tried to add an 
alternative to their movie on YouTube or their pics on Flickr will know that 
they can't do so (in a way that is accessible according to the majority of 
web accessibility guidelines). But who knows what shape the internet is next 
year, or the year after? Games, multimedia and websites will blend more and 
more untill "add text alternative to any non-text element" like now simply 
isn't enough anymore...

Instead of voting against initiatives like WCAG, I would personally first 
like to see/hear the alternatives - since I have not encountered anything 
better yet...

Richard (rantadabadoo)

disclaimer: this post describes my personal opinions which are not, by 
definition, the opinion of the Accessibility foundation - just so you 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "d. michelle hinn" <hinn at uiuc.edu>
To: "IGDA Games Accessibility SIG Mailing List" <games_access at igda.org>
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 7:02 PM
Subject: Re: [games_access] URGENT: WCAG2 and people with learning 

> Yeah, I agree about the W3C stuff and that's why I really am fighting hard 
> to make sure we don't end up like them,  with these crazy guidelines that 
> are completely inaccessible to anyone trying make a simple webpage (game). 
> You might want to make an accessible website but who wants to read through 
> manuals of stuff that looks more like machine code than "guidelines."
>>Guess you're talking about this kind of thing: 
>>http://www.alistapart.com/articles/tohellwithwcag2 ?
>>Have to agree with the statement on W3C articles being hard to comprehend 
>>if you are a bit dopey like me.
>>Hope we never get to this stage...
>>p.s. - http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/ might have helped them?
>>----- Original Message ----- From: "Jonathan Chetwynd" 
>><j.chetwynd at btinternet.com>
>>To: "IGDA Games Accessibility SIG Mailing List" <games_access at igda.org>
>>Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 2:35 PM
>>Subject: [games_access] URGENT: WCAG2 and people with learning 
>>>URGENT: WCAG2 and people with learning disabilities
>>>If any IGDA members have experience of working with people with learning 
>>>disabilities could they please contact me off-list?
>>>WCAG2 is going to recommendation within the next few days. An informal 
>>>group is currently considering posting a formal objection in  respect of 
>>>this user group, and would welcome appropriate support.
>>>Jonathan Chetwynd
>>>games_access mailing list
>>>games_access at igda.org
>>games_access mailing list
>>games_access at igda.org
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