Is WCAG 2.0 almost done?!

A Last Call Working Draft of WCAG 2.0 was just published. This means that the WCAG Working Group has integrated all resolutions from previous comments. Yeah! Now the question is whether this draft of WCAG 2.0 is ready for the community to support moving it on towards becoming a Web standard (W3C Recommendation)?

I’ve watched WCAG 2.0’s development over the last 7 years (first from outside W3C and then from inside W3C). Hundreds of people have contributed, critiqued, and debated WCAG 2.0 from a broad range of perspectives — individual web developers, large organizations, people with disabilities, and many more. The dedication and struggles of the WCAG Working Group and the thoughtful input from the community has resulted in a strong second Last Call Working Draft that has reached a mature state (and I think everyone will agree is vastly improved from the first Last Call in April 2006!).

It’s inherent in the complex issues of web accessibility that guidelines will not be perfect and not everyone will be fully satisfied. So when do you say WCAG 2.0 is good enough? The WCAG Working Group has provided their proposal with this Last Call Working Draft.

I think we’ve come to the point now where the question should be: Is it better for web accessibility overall for the community to continue to debate, or is it better to polish and accept WCAG 2.0? …I say, onward. And I hope that the community can also soon say go forward with WCAG 2.0 (and continue to refine the companion material linked below).

WCAG 1.0 has provided a vital international standard. Yet WCAG 2.0 is urgently needed to address current and future technologies and situations.

One of the beauties of the WCAG 2.0 documents is its ability to provide both a stable standard and specific guidance for techniques, technologies, and tools as they advance. WCAG 2.0 itself provides the stable standard, a foundation that doesn’t change; Techniques for WCAG 2.0 and Understanding WCAG 2.0 can be updated periodically, for example, to expand the techniques and advice covering accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities.

To those interested in the development of WCAG 2.0, I ask if you would carefully consider your approach to reviewing and commenting on these latest Working Drafts, and think about how your feedback can best advance web accessibility overall. Consider supporting efforts to complete WCAG 2.0.

Now I’m off to review how the WCAG Working Group responded to my previous comments, prepared to accept good enough in the interest of moving forward…

4 thoughts on “Is WCAG 2.0 almost done?!

  1. “So when do you say WCAG 2.0 is good enough? The WCAG Working Group [and Shawn are prepared to move forward]. Please add my name to the list! But more importantly that just “moving forward”, I feel it is critical that the suite of standards for the other stake holders in Web accessibility can now join the progress and accept their responsibilities. For example, web content is not the only player in complex issue resolution. The browser (user agent guidelines 2.0), assistive technologies, and end user assistance may be a better receipient of your lingering issue or concern.

    I always ask myself where best to place the burden of resolving the issue. Is it a browser issue? is it an AT issue? is it an end user configuration issue? Is the author and content providing enough to allow the browser and assistive technology to present the information to the needs of the end user? In other words, let each of us ask ourselves if each provision in WCAG 2.0 is good enough at explaining the author / content responsibilities so that then we can all move on to improving the browser, AT capabilities, and end user assistance so the the total solution is wholelistically improved!

  2. I agree the most recent Draft of WCAG 2.0 is a considerable improvement on the first Last Call Draft of April 2006, but I am not sure some of the key issues have been addressed; in particular the apparent failure in WCAG 2.0 to adequately address the needs of people with cognitive, learning and language difficulties. Nor am I convinced that we (and the W3C) should go along with the notion that near enough is good enough.

    The previous two drafts generated 1,500 comments, which according to the Working Group, “comprises a significant community contribution to the guidelines”. Much of the response by the Working Group to these comments was in the form of additional clarifications and techniques in two non-normative documents that do not have the status of WCAG 2.0. Shawn is suggesting we should agree to the normative WCAG 2.0 document and continue to refine the companion material.

    WCAG 1.0 adopted a general position of offering guidance in the area of accessibility; whereas during the development of WCAG 2.0, it appears that a prime aim has been to prepare a document that is more akin to a “standard”. Perhaps, this is best illustrated by the Working Group’s insistence that the value of a Success Criterion be determined by its testability, and in particular machine testability.

    Given this apparent move from offering guidance to providing a (machine) testable standard, it would seem likely that the normative components of WCAG 2.0 will be the main area of concern when determining legal liability or responsibility for ensuring web accessibility. It should be noted, that in regard to the definition of “normative” the WCAG 2.0 Glossary states, “Content identified as “informative” or “non-normative” is never required for conformance”.

    It would be interesting to know what percentage of the suggested substantive changes to the previous two drafts of WCAG 2.0 have actually been incorporated into the current normative document. I am concerned that very few, if any, of the comments or suggestions relating to the needs of those with cognitive, learning or language difficulties are reflected in the latest draft of WCAG 2.0; that is, the core document with formal status. In fact, I believe it could be argued that from a legal perspective, WCAG 2.0 offers less rather than more protection or support than WCAG 1.0 for what is arguable the largest community of disabled people in many countries.

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