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Sunday
Nov112007

Seminar 6 - The standards

I'd love to say these were interesting reading, but they really aren't!

There are lots of standards around web accessibility in particular. These include the Web Accessibility Initiative set WCAG 1.0, with its three levels of priority. Which I've seen quite a lot of now. Roll on WCAG 2.0, see if they are any better!

PAS 78 is aimed at people who commission websites, and I first came across this at the Geek Girl Dinner i went to where Julie Howell (the author) presented. It's an interesting hole to identify. I'm intigued by it, especially given that I'm working in a world where the requirements are identified by non-developers, and it would be all too easy for accessibility stuff to fall through the (giant) cracks between analysis, design and build. There are a number of reviews of this around too. Frequently by people who had a hand in writing or reviewing it, but there you go!These include Bruce Lawson, out-law.com and the BBC. Amongst many others. This is not law, but it could be helpful to read to stay on the right side of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Section 508 is the US ruling, that applies to all Federal websites. That's interesting in itself. It only applies to Federal websites, not sites in general. I guess one of the problems with making legislation concerning websites in any individual country is always going to be working out whether the website in question actually falls under the juristiction of that country.

There are problems with just following these standards without thought. It is perfectly possible to create a site that totally conforms to the very highest standards but is still totally unusable by anyone. And the automatic site checkers that are available can't check that side of things. I think there might be the corresponding case too, where you have a really great site with some innovative features that make it really easy to use for everyone, but you missed an alt tag or three so you're not 'accessible'. I would be really worried that standards might make it too easy to dismiss the difficulties in making a site truly accessible, and prevent further innovations in the area.

I could do with doing some reading on the pros and cons before the exam!  

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