Joe Clark on WCAG 2.0

May 23, 2006

Topics: Accessibility, News, Web Development, Web standards.

To Hell with WCAG 2.0 is the response from the author of Building Accessible Websites to the latest production of the W3C‘s Web Accessibility Initiative.

Clearly, Joe Clark is not happy. And he’s not the first person to express dissatisfaction with the process and results of WCAG 2.0, either. John Foliot of Web Accessibility Technical Services has frequently expressed displeasure with their new yet fundamentally unchanged interpretation of the accesskey functionality.

In an effort to be all things to all web content, the fundamentals of WCAG 2 are nearly impossible for a working standards-compliant developer to understand. WCAG 2 backtracks on basics of responsible web development that are well accepted by standardistas.

Joe Clark, "To Hell with WCAG 2.0"

The three fundamental documents involved in the WCAG 2.0 package are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (72 pages), Understanding WCAG 2.0, (165 pages), and Techniques for WCAG 2.0, which clocks in at 221 pages. Altogether, 448 pages of semi-legalese attempting to define the next generation of web pages.

No, these documents are not easy to understand. And they clearly contain a lot of extreme generalities which appear to be attempting to explain accessibility without reference to technologies. As Clark mentions, this separation of technology and theory makes it much more difficult to apply concepts to the practicalities of creating a website.

Joe Clark’s article is a must read towards understanding the politics and complexities of creating an accessible website. Accessibility is not about enslaving your design aesthetic to a set of guidelines – but it is about considering very carefully the needs of your users, testing your work, and making thoughtful decisions.