Weblogs: Web Accessibility

Recommending WCAG Samurai Errata

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The WCAG Samurai Errata has been available since it was launched on the London leg of the @media 2007 tour. Joe Clark made an incisive move to have those errata independently validated, and published in parallel with the Errata themselves - the independence even went as far as Joe not seeing their findings until after it was published.

This could be construed as a risky gambit, but deep-down I feel Joe was confident of the validity and quality of the work delivered by his secret group. What's fascinating was who he chose to validate his errata - Alastair Campbell and Gian Sampson-Wild. All cloak-and-dagger stuff, but the end result is an errata that's been peer-reviewed, particularly by one of the best accessibility minds in the United Kingdom.

The economical approach to web accessibility

I like the Errata's practical approach to web accessibility. It addresses the ambiguity of WCAG 1.0 by getting straight to the point. Common sense guidelines like:

You can leave a text equivalent blank (e.g., null alt text, alt="") if immediately-preceding or -following text has the same function as a text equivalent.

The Errata tackles real accessibility barriers, and the guidelines they offer are the sensible, least painful and economical way of tackling accessibility barriers. Web standards are portrayed as being the best way to quickly build an accessible website.

The errata takes into account website budgets, and large organisations are expected to take more steps towards accessibility than personal websites or small organisations.

The guidelines on sound and audio files (which also covers podcasting), and video offer a great deal of wisdom and clarity and sound common sense. The expertise of Joe Clark really shines in the coverage of this rich multimedia.

Updates the using markup and stylesheets properly strongly encourages the use of valid markup (with the exception for the embed element), and offers effective antidotes against semantic navel-fluff comparison junkies.

Solid grounding

The WCAG Samurai Errata offers a stable and modern platform for creating accessible websites. Its a vast improvement over WCAG 1.0. The target audience is clearly those organisations, or developers looking to get started in building accessible websites properly. This document services that audience particularly well, neatly sidestepping religious conflicts and pushing the responsibility of broken user-agents back to their vendors.

Granted, many people with a fair degree of accessibility experience can poke holes in the errata - but it accomplishes a very important goal - making it easier for developers to get onto the road toward building more accessible websites. And that is important for the overall improvement in web accessibility.

I've already recommended WCAG Samurai Errata in my recent AbilityNet talk, it is a valuable reference. Web design agencies should be using this document as part of their development processes, Hopefully, when the update of PAS 78 comes around early next year, these Errata will be referenced as accessibility best practices and earn the support of disability organisations in the UK.

(Disclaimer: I am not a member, and was never invited, to the WCAG Samurai. The initial list of invited members was a high quality worldly mix of experience - and they've delivered an equally high quality set of corrections. Excellent job, Joe and team!)

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