This page contains comments on the following issues within the WCAG Samurai Errata.
- Accessible technologies
- Cognitive disabilities
- Preserving reading order
- Captioning, audio descriptions and transcripts
- Distinguishing information
- Skip links
Some of the following comments pertain to the removal of the Level AAA checkpoints in the errata. Although many Level AAA checkpoints are now obsolete (such as placeholding characters, ascii characters and tabindex) there are several which still perform valid functions and should be incorporated into the errata. Please note that the WCAG Samurai have included a special note on cognitive disabilities and many of the Level AAA comments relate to access by this group.
The WCAG Samurai Errata assume that PDFs, scripting technology and Flash can be directly accessible and have rewritten the guidelines accordingly (
PDF files published by the normal means… are not non-text information and do not need text equivalents). It is my opinion that although these technologies do contain some accessibility features they do not currently contain the type and variety of accessibility features inherent in HTML. I strongly believe that with the correct impetus the corporations responsible for these technologies will develop accessibility features that far surpass those available in HTML, but until that time I believe that these technologies must be considered non-text content and treated accordingly.
One of my biggest concerns with WCAG2 is the inclusion of the testability clause. Testability requires that the success criterion is testable via a machine or that 8 out of 10 human testers would agree on an outcome. The testability requirement outlaws many valid accessibility techniques such as the clear and simple content requirement. One of the problems with validity is that it removes decisions from the developers. The WCAG Samurai Errata contain a number of instances where the extent to which a checkpoint is fulfilled is left up to the developer. I commend the stand that the WCAG Samurai have taken on this issue. I believe the WCAG Samurai Errata is a much superior document because of it.
It is unfortunate that WCAG Samurai have not taken the opportunity to address the needs of people with cognitive disabilities. Increasingly this group are the largest group of people with disabilities accessing the web and their ability to do so is compromised by the lack of guidelines addressing their needs. This is an issue that WCAG2 also does not address sufficiently. I would like to see WCAG Samurai develop a set of cognitive disability guidelines to add to these errata. In addition to this there are some Level AAA checkpoints which I believe should be included in the errata:
Checkpoint 11.3: Provide information so that users may receive documents according to their preferences (e.g., language, content type, etc.)
The errata states: There is no practical way to comply with this guideline given that it implicitly requires authors to provide translations (not an accessibility issue) or different “content types” (eg. duplicating an entire web page in SVG, also not an accessibility issue). Ignore.
People with cognitive disabilities can vary in their preference for colour contrast, text size and font. Providing alternative displays of a page for this group is a valid accessibility technique. Providing aural style sheets is also a valid technique in assisting screen reader users however I have yet to see it implemented.
Checkpoint 13.5: Provide navigation bars to highlight and give access to the navigation mechanism.
The errata states: Not all sites or pages require navbars. Ignore.
Navigation bars are of great importance to people with cognitive disabilities as they provide a consistent means of navigating within a particular site. Seeing as the errata allow for checkpoints that do not apply to all content (unlike WCAG2), adding this checkpoint to the errata with a proviso that it applies to sites of a particular size is not infeasible.
Checkpoint 13.7:If search functions are provided, enable different types of searches for different skill levels and preferences.
The errata states: You don’t have to provide multiple kinds of search (not an accessibility issue). Ignore.
Although it is true that this checkpoint specifically requires different types of searches for different skill levels and preferences and that this has no relevance to accessibility, the provision of targeted searches and contextual filters can greatly assist people with cognitive disabilities.
Checkpoint 14.2: Supplement text with graphic or auditory presentations where they will facilitate comprehension of the page.
The errata states: Use the content you wish to use. You are not required to illustrate documents (nor, if you are a blind person, could you do so), which then would require text equivalents.
Providing graphic or auditory versions of information is the equivalent of providing text of graphic and auditory information. Just as graphics are inaccessible to the blind, text can be inaccessible to people with cognitive disabilities.
Checkpoint 14.3: Create a style of presentation that is consistent across pages.
The errata states: You may use any accessible “style” you wish, including styles that are not “consistent”.
People with particular types of cognitive disabilities find learning new systems difficult and thus consistency is important to them. Although there may be some cases where consistency is impractical, consistency should be the norm.
Preserving reading order
Preserving the reading order of a page (ie. matching the reading order of the page with style sheets enabled to the page with style sheets disabled) is an important accessibility technique for people with cognitive disabilities. For instance, some people with dyslexia browse web sites with a screen reader which can reinforce the text that they can see. It is imperative to this user group that the reading order presented aloud via the screen reader matches the reading order they see on the page. This is also of importance to visual keyboard users who rely on tabbing through a page to navigate.
I commend WCAG Samurai on including this important technique in their errata. Validity is intrinsic to the rendering of web sites by user agents and the enforcement of validity will allow the development of better assistive technologies.
Captioning, audio descriptions and transcripts
The requirement to caption and audio describe is more stringent than the minimum requirement of WCAG1 (although captioning and audio description are Level A the fall-back checkpoint, 11.4, allows for a text transcript instead). This requirement is likely to remain controversial. Captioning and audio describing can be resource-intensive but not significantly more so than the development of a video. People with auditory disabilities often comment that a text transcript (even one that contains all the text and action of a particular video) is not accessible to them. In this case captions and audio descriptions are a necessary part of these errata.
Please note that I have previously argued against including captioning and audio descriptions in the minimum set of WCAG2. After discussions with people with disabilities I have reversed my position on this particular issue.
There is little information in the errata about forms. The removal of requirements such as keyboard shortcuts, tabindex and placeholding characters brings these errata up-to-date with current technology ability. However, clarification should be included on the need for visual, descriptive field labels for all fields (currently defined as an “until user agent” clause in Checkpoint 10.1). In addition to this, certain techniques that assist people with disabilities could be included such as the inclusion of introductory information, alternative methods of contact and contextual help.
Checkpoint 13.8: Place distinguishing information at the beginning of headings, paragraphs, lists, etc.
The errata states: Headings are “distinguishing information,” and we know of no language that requires each paragraph to begin with “distinguishing information.” Ignore.
Some types of distinguishing information can be very useful to people with disabilities. These types of distinguishing information include hidden structural labels prior to menus or navigation, a summary page of a particular web site or a summary paragraph at the top of the page. Although I don’t believe there is a need to provide distinguishing information at the beginning of headings or paragraphs, distinguishing information in the form of hidden labels, headings and summary text is useful.
Checkpoint 13.6: Group related links, identify the group (for user agents), and, until user agents do so, provide a way to bypass the group.
The errata states: Not all sites or pages have “related links” and the only HTML elements with relevant semantics work solely in forms (eg. optgroup)
Although often implemented as a workaround solution, this checkpoint has often been used as the reasoning behind including skip links. Skip links are important to a variety of groups of people with disabilities; such as those using screen readers and magnifiers. I would recommend including this checkpoint within the errata.