Video: Introduction to WCAG 2

I recently gave an internal presentation at Headscape about WCAG 2. A number of people expressed an interest in seeing it so I made a point to record it.

At the end the presentation I references a stripped down version of the guidelines found here.

I also refer to a quick reference guide to WCAG 2 that can be found here.

Apologises

Apologises for the poor audio quality of this video. Unfortunately the decision to record the presentation was made at the last minute and so we didn’t have a proper mic setup arranged. You can also tell it is not quite as slick as my normal presentations :)

I would also like to apologise for the lack of transcript of this video. Again, it was not my initial intention to put this video online as this was an internal presentation containing my initial thoughts on WCAG 2. I am still learning a lot about the new guidelines and will publish a more considered article when I have a better understanding of the subject.

Feedback

On that subject, I would be interested to hear your feedback on the thoughts I present. Do you agree with my interpretation of the new guidelines? Have I misunderstood anything? Are there other elements I should have addressed? Your thoughts would be appreciated in the comments.

Update: We now have a transcript!

Thanks go to Anna Debenham who braved the horrendous audio to transcribe the presentation. If you cannot face the video we do at least now have a written version!

Paul: Ok, this has worked out a little bit weird because the idea initially with this presentation was that it was really about bringing us up to speed with WCAG2 now that WCAG2 has been released. But I made the mistake of mentioning it online and several people said “ooh, can you record that?” so now it’s a little bit of both, a little bit of a presentation to you guys and a little bit of a presentation that will go on the web.

Paul: So as you guys probably know, WCAG2 has now been released, and as accessibility is a big part of what we deliver and we talk a lot about accessibility, we need to be up to speed on it and we need to know what we’re doing. Obviously accessibility has become such a part of what we do day in and day out that we don’t necessarily think too much about it, it’s almost an intrinsic part of what we do, but with changes to WCAG2, or with the arrival of WCAG2, there have been differences, changes, things that have altered, so I want to make sure that everybody is up to speed with it. Feel free to butt in with questions, that’s absolutely fine.

Audience: Will the video be able to see the screen?

Paul: The video will be able to see the screen. Ok, so, WCAG2. Basically, WCAG1 came out in 1999 which is a good old time ago, in Internet terms that’s like forever, and there was a real need to make some changes and improve WCAG1. Let me just pop back and just explain.

The Journey to WCAG2

Paul: So, yeah, like I said, WCAG1 came out in 1999, it quickly dated as technology evolved, and some of the guidelines actually became harmful in a way. So you guys know that for example, we don’t always take note of what they say about Access Keys, we don’t always take note of what they say about “make sure you put text in an empty form field” and things like that. And WCAG1 was very much built with HTML in mind, and obviously the web is a lot broader than that and there are a lot more formats about. But unfortunately development of WCAG2 was very slow, and also fraught with controversy. I mean, famously with Joe Clarke who is an accessibility expert wrote on A List Apart “to hell with WCAG2″ because it basically had become a bit of a joke, because it was very generic; they were trying to write a set of guidelines that really made no effort to mention specific technology because they didn’t want it to date like WCAG1, but the result is it became unreadable and nobody could understand it.

WCAG2 Reborn

Paul: But, things did change. Major changes were made to the WCAG2 draft and things did improve dramatically. They really listened to the community, and the language in it now is much clearer. So what I want to do now is talk a little bit through what WCAG2 includes and what it doesn’t, and how we’re then going to go about implementing it and how it affects us.

Principles

Paul: Ok, so let’s look at the structure of WCAG2. Basically WCAG2 has 3 tiers to it that you need to know about. Tier number 1 is the idea of Principles. So this is kind of the most generic of the tiers, you know, it’s really kind of aimed at the kind of things you would tell a board of directors that doesn’t really understand anything technical, that doesn’t really understand accessibility at all. And there are 4 principles which are the foundations of web accessibility and these principles I’ll come onto a little bit later.

Guidelines

Paul: Underneath each of those principles are Guidelines. So, within each principle there are 3 or 4 guidelines or a number of guidelines that is different for each principle. But there are a total of 12 guidelines, and these are goals that you should be working towards in order to make your content more accessible to users.

Success Criteria

Paul: Under each guideline, there are Success Criteria. So now we’ve really hit the nitty-gritty, these are kind of specific, measurable goals that you’ve got to achieve. And this is how you judge whether your site is WCAG2 compliant, if you like. So, this is the really important level if that makes sense, but it’s organised within this hierarchy of guidelines and principles.

Techniques

Paul: Now, actually, there is kind of a 4th tier as well which is techniques. So you’re trying to, maybe as designers, you’re trying to conform to the Success Criteria, well there’s a whole load of different ways and different techniques that you can do that and you could read about those, and you could make up your own techniques if you wanted to, but there are some laid down that can help you get going.

Working with WCAG2

Paul: So those are the 3 levels that WCAG2 is built around. Now let’s dive into those a little bit. I had to think about how much detail I want to go into in this room. Obviously we don’t want to go into every technique that you could possibly apply and we don’t even want to go into necessarily every success criteria. That’s really for you guys to look through afterwards. What we are going to do is look at those guidelines and those principles, and hopefully help you to understand where WCAG2 stands over stuff.

Perceivable

Paul: Ok, so, the first… heh, totally illegible text, isn’t that great. Very accessible!

Audience: (laughter)

Paul: So the number 1 principle is Perceivable, and that’s 1 of your 4 principles that you’ve got here. And perceivable is basically talking about “information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways that they can perceive”

Audience: (laughter)

Paul: Unlike that! (points to presentation)

Audience: (laughter) Is the rest of the presentation like this?

Paul: Yes.

Audience: (more laughter)

Paul: You actually don’t need to read this anyway which is very useful. So, Perceivable is basically about “can you see it?”, that is it as far as the principle is concerned, and the answer is “no you can’t”. But perceivable then breaks down into a series of guidelines. So, let’s have a look at what these guidelines are. So basically, perceivable is broken down into 4 guidelines. And if we talk through each of those it should give you an idea.

Text Alternatives

Paul: The first one is text alternatives. So this is stuff we already know. “Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.” So this really applies to things like video, audio, forms that you create, and interestingly CAPTCHA is particularly mentioned here. And that is a particular accessibility problem that hasn’t been particularly well solved I don’t think.

Time Based Media

Paul: The next way that Perceivable works itself out is in time-based media. What we’re talking about here is that you need to provide an alternative for anything that is time-based. So here we’re talking about captions for video, sign-language maybe, media alternatives, but it also applies to live and pre-recorded video. So if you’re streaming stuff, then you need to think about this as well as with stuff that’s pre-recorded. Now, it does take into account the difference between “crap, how are we going to make streaming video accessible?”. If you read into the guidelines it does give some good advice there. So that’s not quite as scary as it first sounds.

Adaptable

Paul: Anything that we produce needs to be adaptable. In other words, content can be presented in different ways. For example, a simpler layout maybe for people with cognitive disabilities for example. Really, this boils down to things like using semantic markup, meaningful order in your HTML so that if the CSS is stripped away it still makes sense in the order that it is presented, and not relying on colour and other sensory elements to convey information.

Distinguishable

Paul: And then finally it’s got to be distinguishable. So it’s about making it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background and that kind of stuff. So we’re talking here about contrast, colour, and control over things like audio and video, that kind of stuff. So that’s where we’re at with perceivable.

Operable

Paul: Let’s move onto the next principle which is Operable. So, Operable is about user interface components and navigation, and making them easy to use so that somebody can use them whatever disability they may have. So this again breaks down into 4 different guidelines, the most obvious of which is Keyboard Access. So everything that we produce has to be accessible via a keyboard. So, for example, the Flash video that we’re currently creating for the Wiltshire Farm Foods home page needs to be keyboard operated, alright? Which I bet it isn’t at the moment! And to be fair, it’s part of production, I’m sure they’d put that in at the end if I hadn’t reminded them. That existed under WCAG1, so there’s nothing different there. So everything needs to be keyboard accessible.

Enough Time

Paul: You also need to provide enough time for people to take in the information that they’re being presented with. So giving the ability to pause, stop and control time based material is really important as well.

Seizures

Paul: You’ve got to take into account seizures, some people can have seizures triggered by animation and that kind of thing, so there are various limits that the guidelines lay down about flashing objects and stuff like that.

Navigable

Paul: And then finally it’s got to be navigable. So this includes things like skipping content, having descriptive page titles, tab order, links that make sense out of context, lot’s of headings, that kind of stuff. Is this all making sense?

Audience: Yes, apart from time-based media, I don’t understand that.

Paul: Time-based media, we’re talking about video and audio. So let’s say you had… one of our podcasts. So, there are certain things we need to ensure. One is that it is operable, in other words, a user can pause the podcast if we get annoying, or they want time to take in the information that we’ve said, but the other thing is that we also need to provide an alternative way of them getting it which is why we provide the show notes that we do and the transcripts and stuff like that.

Audience: Ok, well that kind of fits under Text Alternatives and giving it control so it’s under Operable… I just don’t get where it is under perceivable, as a perceivable thing, it has to be perceivable?

Paul: Yeah, basically.

Audience: Video, audio… all has to be perceivable then?

Paul: Yes. Some of these principles and certainly some of the guidelines do overlap to some degree. But when you draw down to the Success Criteria level, of how you actually apply these things, then there are more specific techniques. I think what they did is create a load of success criteria, and then kind of chunked them together in meaningful groups, but sometimes they’re not so meaningful. But it is a vast improvement on WCAG1 as far as being able to understand it.

Understandable

Paul: Ok, talking of understanding it, our next one is Understandable. So this is the next one of our 4 top-level principles, so everything you produce has to be understandable. So what does that mean? Well that results in 3 guidelines. It has to be Readable, Predictable and has to be able to provide Input Assistance. So how does that work itself out in practice?

Readable

Paul: With Readable, we’re talking about making content readable, text content mainly. So this works out in things like setting the language in your HTML, you know, setting what the language is in the header, avoiding using jargon, finally we’ve got a decent reason to go back to clients and say, you know, “you can’t use that kind of language, nobody understands it!”. Also things like abbreviations need to be explained, and also reading level as well, and that’s something I really want to get through to a lot of our clients because a lot of our clients, especially the public sector clients that we have, have this attitude of “well of course, people that look at our site are of post-graduate degree people, and they have excellent reading level”, but that doesn’t take into account things like people that speak English as a 2nd language, who can be very intelligent but not particularly good at reading, also people with Dyslexia can be incredibly intelligent but not particularly good at reading. So reading level is an important aspect of it.

Predictable

Paul: For it to be understandable it also needs to be predictable. So with this we’re talking about things like consistent navigation, and no uninitiated changes. And this is a particularly important one in our world of AJAX and JavaScript and all this cool stuff that we’re doing where we can often trigger events without asking the user’s permission first. When I say “asking for permission” I mean they haven’t clicked on link or they’ve not initiated it in any way. Users need to initiate these actions… and no pop-up windows without them clicking first to trigger a pop-up and being aware of what’s going to happen. It’s all about making it understandable and making them aware of what’s going on.

Input Assistance

Paul: The last guideline under Understandable is Input Assistance. So this is going into the realms of when we do forms, how do we handle errors, what kind of feedback do we give to the user, what labels – are things clearly marked up as labels, are they descriptive of the fields and the forms and that kind of stuff. We’re also talking about help, what additional help are you provided in terms of tool tip and contextual help and anything else that you care to mention. So that’s Understandable, that’s what that principle is driving at.

Robust

Paul: The final principle is Robust. “Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.” In other words, what we build has to work on everything.

Audience: What about AJAX?

Paul: I think that’s where we get into the realm of progressive enhancement, that it’s fine to use something like AJAX as long as, if the AJAX is taken away, it still operates. Or, you provide an alternative version, the guidelines do actually accept that you can do alternative versions of something. So Gmail is a good example of that, Gmail, it actually doesn’t work if AJAX is turned off but they do provide an HTML only version of it which does the same thing. I’m not a great fan of that because it’s twice as much stuff to maintain, and one version become out of date and all the rest of it. My preferred technique is to build it so it works normally, and then to layer on the JavaScript and AJAX on top of it to provide enhanced functionality, which is what we guys have been doing pretty much all along and we need to continue in doing that.

Compatibility

Paul: So that Robust principle actually only comes down to one guideline which is Compatible, so that’s about maximising compatibility with current… listen to the wording of this… Maximise compatibility with current and future user agents, so we also need to be looking forward as well and predicting the future which is always good. But that’s where it comes back to using solid, good code that is’nt reliant on lots of hacks in order to get it to work, and it goes back to the conversation that we’ve been having recently about browser testing, upgraded browser support and that kind of stuff as well. So Compatibility and Robustness is the last principle. The other thing I should have mentioned with Compatibility is this also includes things like validation, making sure that your code validates, and just generally other markup type stuff.

What, no AAA, AA, A?

Paul: Ok, another thing that might have occurred to you is AAA, AA, A.. Priority 1, 2 and 3. Priority 1, 2 and 3 are still there, there are still those levels of conformance, but I get a real sense from the tome of this document, and this is just my personal opinion, people watching this video who know a lot more about accessibility might jump all over me on this, but my sense is that they were playing down those 3 levels of conformance. To be honest, I think I’m pretty keen on that. I don’t think those levels of conformance have done a lot of good generally speaking, because I think it’s kind of developed a checkbox mentality amongst some of our clients “We must be AA compliant” or “We must be A compliant” and they’re not actually thinking about the needs of the users, they’re just ticking the boxes so they meet some quota that has been established somewhere. One of the things that’s quite interesting, and I’m not sure if it’s a change from WCAG1 or not, I couldn’t find the reference in WCAG1 but again someone will correct me no doubt, but conformance in WCAG2 seems to be on a page-by-page basis. So you’re no longer in a situation where you want to claim conformance so you’re claiming conformance for an entire site, but you’re rather conforming on a page-by-page basis. And this allows you to basically pick-and-mix the level of conformance you want to reach on any particular page which is much, much more sensible because there are some elements where you might be building a particularly complex application that really isn’t going to manage being AAA compliant, whereas the rest of the site is AAA, and this one page isn’t. So it’s giving you the ability to mix and match. In fact, in the guidelines it says “It is not recommended that Level AAA conformance be required as a general policy for entire sites because it is not possible to satisfy all Level AAA Success Criteria for some content. In other words they’re saying it’s just not possible to be AAA in some situations, so don’t even try.

Start With Basics

Paul: So how does this relate to what we do on a day-to-day basis? Well, I think the language we use with our clients pretty much will remain consistent with how it was with WCAG1 which is that we need to start of by encouraging all our clients to start with the absolute basics. A lot of people are put off of accessibility because of the enormity of it, of all the things they’ve got to do. And even to be single A compliant there is quite a lot to do if you’ve got a site that has never been built to be single A compliant before. So I think our attitude has got to be that you work towards this over time, it is an ongoing process, you don’t need to do it all in one big go and that you need to start with the absolute basics, the quick wins, the stuff… you know, it’s the 80/20 rule, 80% of the problems that people are going to encounter from an accessibility point of view is caused by 20% of the accessibility issues if that makes sense. So we can solve a small number of issues but have a big impact on the site. So we’ll start off with some real basic stuff. Things like putting in “alt” and “title” attributes, providing alternatives to media, things like video and audio, being aware of JavaScript and the problems that JavaScript can create if it’s not implemented correctly, providing resizable text so that the user has the ability to either increase or decrease the text size on sites, to build everything to be standards based because that makes it so much easier in future.

Audience: Aren’t we moving away from resizable text?

Paul: We’re moving away from the resizable interface where the whole thing scales up and down, but there’s no reason why we can’t keep the text itself rescaleable. The layers should be able to push up and down. It has to be said with resizeable text, it is becoming less of an issue. The reason it’s becoming less of an issue is because browsers now have this zoom functionality built into them. But I don’t think we’re quite there yet to be able to drop resizable text entirely is my current feeling… I’ve got mixed feelings about it. But the obvious aim we’re going for here is to be single A compliant.

Build Over Time

Paul: So all of this is about building accessibility over time. Taking the guidelines by themselves is not going to be enough, and taking this checkbox mentality that I talked about earlier is not going to be enough. Once you’ve done these quick fixes, the next step on from that is to start consulting with your community. We need to encourage our clients to start talking to their users and find out what accessibility concerns they have. I also think, which I think we’re quite poor at, that we need to start testing with real users some of the accessibility stuff that we do, and the big problem there is persuading clients to pay for that. It’s really hard to get clients to pay for that kind of testing but I do think that it’s a really useful thing to do, and there are organisations out there that provide people you can get in to do testing, or that you can send sites out and they test with them. So, testing with real disabled users is really worthwhile. I think it’s about identifying major issues and dealing with those first, just pragmatic kind of prioritisation of issues, something you do with usability. With usability you look for the quick wins and the showstoppers and those you deal with first, exactly the same with accessibility. Now, what the major showstoppers are for those navigating the site need to be dealt with. And over time you build towards AA and AAA compliance if you can. But you only do that maybe on some pages. The big concern clients have and the reason they get into this check-box mentality of saying “we’ve got to be double A or we’ve got to conform to the WCAG guidelines” is fear, a fear of litigation. Especially our bigger clients, they’re really worried they’re going to get serious issues. But I think it’s important to stress with clients that litigation doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t suddenly have come through the post a writ saying “you need to come into court about this accessibility issue on your site”. It doesn’t happen like that. What happens in reality is the user complains. And if the user is repeatedly not heard and not listened to, and not responded to and not cared about and rejected, they get angry enough to maybe approach someone like the RNIB who then take it on into litigation for them. That’s the reality of what happens.

Quick Response

Paul: So as a result, you can diffuse that by responding to complaints quickly. So as you’re building up over time with the accessibility policy, if someone does complain, you need to write back to them and you need to deal with that issue straight up. Ok, so that’s how the client should be dealing with all this and there’s loads more I could say on this but I don’t want it to go on forever.

Headscape’s Approach

Paul: Let’s briefly talk about Headscape and our approach and how we should be approaching the subject of accessibility.

Establish Approach With Client

Paul: Well first of all I think everything that we do in our approach should be in conjunction with the client. I don’t think necessarily we talk enough to the client about accessibility. Some clients are just so bamboozled by it that they want us to take control, others want a say in it and what to be reassured that we’re doing something about it. So I think there’s a dialogue that we need to make sure happens. And if a client just wants us to take control of it, that’s great. If they want to be involved in the process, then that’s great to but we need to engage with the client and talk to the client more about it.

Remain Pragmatic

Paul: The second thing and I think this is really important is that we need to remain pragmatic in our approach to accessibility. Everything I’ve been talking about before like building up accessibility gradually, about doing the quick wins first and the show stoppers and that kind of stuff, that’s all pragmatic. I don’t want us on one hand to ignore accessibility, and it needs to be an integral part of everything we do, but on the other hand you can become extremist about it. We could spend hours and hours trying to get something to work in every conceivable user agent in the world and we can worry about every type of disability to the point where it becomes like a paralysis that stops us actually doing anything. So there’s a real balance that we need to strike here. And we need to strike that with our clients and working with our clients.

Have a rationale

Paul: Now I think it’s worth saying that if we decide not to comply with a guideline for whatever reason, we need to have a rationale for that. So we might not conform even to single A compliance in certain situations, although to be honest I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but if we do decide not to conform, we need a damned good reason why not. In other words, we need to have thought about it. And the other thing about accessibility is that we always think about it at the end of the project. It’s too late by then, we’ve built everything. So it really needs to become an intrinsic part of everything that we do.

Responsibilities.

Paul: Let’s talk about the idea of responsibility here and whose responsibility accessibility is within Headscape. Basically I’m going to say, everybody. One of the absolute great things about WCAG2 is because it’s got this 3 tiered approach, it is “accessible” to everybody. It’s understandable by everybody. So therefore it can be everybody’s responsibility to keep an eye on accessibility. And so this is how I think it should split down.

Sales/Client – Principles

Paul: Marcus and Chris and the Client should be worried about principles. The Operable, the Perceivable, those basic top-level principles. And you should be looking at anything that goes out from the company and going “well is that really operable?” So you can take a very top-level approach to it. And I think as you talk to clients as well you take this very top-level approach to it. That’s the level you guys should be working at.

Guidelines – Project Managers

Paul: Project managers, I think you need to be looking and understanding from the guidelines point of view. So you need to go in and read what those guidelines are, and you need to be sure that you understand them. And as you look at any work that goes out from the company, you need to be thinking “does it conform to those guidelines?” You don’t necessarily care about the nitty-gritty of how those are measured, or the nitty-gritty of how they’re achieved, but has that guideline been met? That’s the level you need to be working at.

Success Criteria – Designers and Developers

Paul: Then when it comes to the designers and developers, you need to get right into these guidelines. And you need to understand the success criteria and how to apply the guideline and how to make them work in practice.

Check Everything

Paul: So basically, we need to be checking everything that goes out the company for accessibility. And I have to say I’m making the mistake of saying this on camera, but I think we’ve got a bit lax recently when it comes to accessibility. We reached a point where it was becoming quite intuitive to us, and we were doing it quite naturally, and then as a result of that, we stopped checking because it was the natural process of what we were doing, and then bad habits start to seep in again. So WCAG2 is a great opportunity for us to say “ok, we need to start reviewing everything we’re doing as it goes out again”. So I’d really, really encourage you to check everything.

Needs to be second nature

Paul: basically we need to get to the point where this is second nature to us, so that we’re doing this intuitively again, but not to the point where we’re no longer checking.

Audience: Clients often say “what’s the difference? If I just got for single A compliancy, what won’t my site be reaching?”

Paul: I have to say that I think I would stop talking about double A, triple A and single A compliancy. I don’t think there’s really any value any more in talking about that to the clients.

Audience: I think there is because having the page by page conformance is a really good thing and that we can now argue that yes, we can now make the majority of your site triple A compliant, but for a page full of videos, we can make it single A compliant.

Paul: Ok

Audience: Clients will continue to reference it in briefs. You can’t not talk about it.

Audience: I think it’s actually quite a strong thing.

Audience: is it a page by page compliance, or template by template compliance?

Paul: I think it has to be page by page because the content that goes into the page, into the template, could invalidate it. This is why I think it’s something that should be downplayed. I accept the clients will still talk to us about it, but clients still talk to us about doing speculative design, it doesn’t mean we do it. I think there’s an education thing there whereby we need to move clients away from being obsessed by double A, single A compliance, and to start thinking about accessibility policies. What is there accessibility policy and what is it that they are trying to achieve on their site? Our base mark is going to be single A, it’s always single A, and I think it should continue to be single A.

Audience: but if you don’t talk to them about it, you could argue that less caring clients would just say “well why would I do anything about it, bottom line?”

Paul: Yeah, I said you shouldn’t talk about single A, double A, triple A, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them about accessibility and the improvements that accessibility brings because for people that have got that sort of attitude you don’t want to talk about the disabled if they don’t care about the disabled, you talk about search engines, and that’s the best way to sell accessibility, by talking about search engine placement. That’s the reason you want to be accessible for people who have that kind of attitude. For those that care, and are talking about single A, double A and triple A, you need to say to them “well actually, conforming with any level, it’s great that you want to do accessibility, and certainly single A should be an absolute minimum, but we’d encourage you to start working up an accessibility policy and looking at your site as a whole and say could this area do more in your site, your accessibility policy should do real world testing with real users…” all kinds of things.

Audience: So you think that we should be encouraging large organisations that have accessibility policies themselves that refer to double A, triple A, to try and persuade them to kind of move away from that?

Paul: No, not necessarily, I wouldn’t go that far. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that they’re a bad thing, I’m saying they’re not the be-all and end-all. And at the moment I feel like the vast majority of clients think they are the be-all and end-all. They’re obsessed with putting that little badge on the bottom of the page. And it’s not about putting badges on the page. The trouble with institutions that have these policies of single A, double A and triple A is that these policies are in place for the institution, not for the user. And that’s my problem with them. That’s why I think we should try to break that mentality with clients. And I accept that sometimes we’re going to lose, and that’s fine. Exactly the same goes when we were talking about browser support. I accept sometimes we’re going to lose that battle as well. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and fight it.

Audience: I just wondered why WCAG2 still does it, because yes, you’re right basically, and accessibility requirements should be based on user requirements and not ticking boxes, so why is it still in there?

Paul: I think it’s in there because… my impression… I hate talking about accessibility on camera! You remember what happened last time in the podcast? It was just a nightmare! I think the reason it’s still in is because some of those success criteria are hard to meet. Some of them are damn difficult. When you start talking about streaming video, you’ve got some difficult challenges there that need to be met. So I think as a result, what the W3C is saying there is that we accept that some of these things are difficult to do. And we accept that you’re not always going to be able to do them, so we’re going to make them triple A. But come on guys, some of this stuff is dead simple and we should be doing it, that’s single A. That’s my impression of the mentality behind it, and that’s a great mentality, but it’s when someone changes that to being guidelines, which is what they are, to being rules, really instilled by Moses and presented to the people. You know it’s not that and I think that’s an important differentiation to make.

Where to Start

Paul: I know what you guys are like, especially designers. Ok I’m making sweeping generalisations here. But, if you guys go along to the WCAG website and you look at the WCAG2 guidelines, it’s horrible! It’s intimidating and it’s scary and it goes on for pages. And there’s a lot of text around it.

Audience: There’s no pictures? (laughter)

Paul: There’s no pictures! The design isn’t even very good. So what I’ve done is I’ve taken that page, I’ve literally all I’ve done is I’ve stripped out the explanation text in front of it, and the waffle at the end of it, and I’ve left you with just the set of guidelines so it looks like a slightly less intimidating list. Not much but slightly. So that’s up at http://www.headscape.co.uk/WCAG2 so if you go to that, you can get just the actual list of criteria. There’s also, on the WCAG2 website, there’s a thing where you can go and you can say my site uses tables, my site uses video, my site has this and that, and you untick the ones that it doesn’t have and it narrows down the list of success criteria to only show you the ones that you need to care about. So you might want to check that one out as well. Ok, so that’s basically all I have to say, are there any other questions before we wrap up?

Questions

Audience: Clients are going to ask us the 1 minute elevator pitch. What’s the difference between WCAG2 and WCAG1? What would you highlight as differences?

Paul: I think there’s a bigger acceptance of things in the world other than HTML, so things like Flash, PDFs, all that kind of stuff, there’s much more reference to that kind of thing. It’s much better written, much better organised. I think it’s more pragmatic. It’s a little bit more… I think it will last the test of time more. It’s hard to pin down exactly what I mean by that. There is actually a document out that talks about the specific differences between WCAG1 and WCAG2 if you wanted to get into that level of detail. And to be honest, I couldn’t tell you what that is yet because I haven’t looked at it in that much depth myself.

Audience: I think you and I do need a couple of the more detailed stuff, to get the guidelines, just one or two examples basically. Something that’s new between WCAG1 and WCAG2, and also some of the differences between single A, double A and triple A. The streaming video is an excellent example.

Paul: Just go along to http://www.headscape.co.uk/WCAG2 and you’ll be able to see those different levels.

Audience: It seems like, an almost unwritten principle, or unwritten in your list of principles. It’s technology agnostic.

Paul: WCAG2 started off as so technologically agnostic that it wasn’t understandable.

Audience: WCAG1, the first line is all about “it must be W3C technologies”.

Paul: Yeah, it will pretty much accommodate anything. You know, it talks in terms of audio and video. It doesn’t mention Flash for example specifically, at least I don’t think it does, but it refers to those kinds of things. It refers to documents that are not HTML. I’m saying this as much for the video as anything else, I’m still learning about it as well. So I think it’s going to be a learning process for a while for us to really get to grips with this, and truth be told we probably should have started a little sooner than this, but it’s not radically different from WCAG1. This is as much getting us back into the habit of thinking about accessibility as anything else really. Ok?

Audience: 1 more question. Are they new Keynote animations?

Paul: Yeah, they are new Keynote animations.

  • http://www.behindmyscenes.com Atle Mo

    I have to admit it´s pretty painful to listen to this because of the audio quality, but thanks for sharing Paul!

  • http://www.acairns.co.uk Andrew Cairns

    yeah, the audio can get rough – and i had headphones on !! :)
    but thanks for sharing!

  • http://boagworld.com Paul Boag

    Yeah like I said I nearly didn’t bother posting it because of the poor audio. It was all a bit of a rush unfortunately. We will cover it properly on the podcast soon.

  • http://www.acairns.co.uk Andrew Cairns

    Looking forward to it! :)

  • http://www.christaylordesign.com Chris Taylor

    Thanks Paul
    Found the presentation really useful, cheers for putting it up.
    I always enjoy these little insights into how companies like yours work. Would love to see more Headscape meetings like this actually.

  • http://www.rawnet.com Sam Barnes

    Hey, the audio pain to my ears was preferable to the painful bleeding eyes and brain I seemed to suffer each time I attempted to read WCAG 2.0 online… cheers as always Mr. Boag.

  • http://www.cvwdesign.co.uk Clive Walker

    I found WCAG2 difficult to understand but your presentation made it much clearer. Great work! I’d like to make a point about the ‘check box mentality’ that you mentioned for WCAG1. I see what you are saying about accessibility being driven by user experience and not by check boxes or accessibility badges. However, when I first read about website accessibility some years ago, I found the check box approach immensely useful because it greatly helped my understanding of the process. Maybe this is ‘my bad’ but I would never have made websites with better accessibility if I had not been able to check a few boxes. It helped because it seemed to me to be a pragmatic approach.

  • Jonathon Baker

    Great presentation, I actually had a job interview, and managed to remember a few things about accessibility from here that I managed to slip in.
    The sound quality didn’t bother me too much as I’ve listened to enough bad punk bands to learn how to filter it out! But I will look into this subject more.

  • http://linusdesign.co.uk Frank Harrison

    Thanks Paul – good stuff!
    Does anyone know of anywhere to download the WCAG2 guidelines? I can only seem to find online versions and would be useful for sitting on trains etc…

  • http://www.ryanbehrman.com Ryan Behrman

    Great talk. I’m a little concerned about the “understandable” section where you talk about users initiating actions. We develop e-commerce sites for fashion retail and in order to keep the users in the sales funnel and prevent them from having to keep using the back button we have rollover tooltips that contain information on the various parts of the clothing apparel as they are moused over (or on focus for keyboard users). Does the user have to expressly click on each part of the apparel for this to be compliant with WCAG2?

  • Leanne Yee

    Thank you so much for this! For the past week I have been very slowly and very painstakingly reading through the WCAG2 Guidelines and wondering how on earth I was going to get everyone in my company understanding this and committing to it if I had such difficulty myself. So I really appreciate getting some insight from how other companies are approaching it.
    As a Developer I find your strategy to move away from the “checkbox mentality” very interesting, and it would make our lives dramatically easier if we didn’t have the somewhat unfeasible pressure of having to check every guideline for every page just so we could put a little A, AA or AAA badge on the site!
    Unfortunately, people like things to be measurable and the different levels of Accessibility do just that. So I can imagine a little bit of an uphill journey when trying to get people (clients and colleagues alike) to move away from focussing on this.
    I guess at the end of the day all we can do is understand the guidelines to the best of our ability, incorporate them into our builds and if somebody complains that something is inaccessibile, address it then.

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