What’s ‘Accessibility Support’?

The basic difference between a technology that is accessibility supported and a technology that is relied upon. But the scope of both terms is wider and more complex that a single-line definition.

WCAG 2 has tried to overcome a big problem that WCAG 1 has: technology dependence. WCAG 1 checkpoints included many times the phrase “Until user agents allow…” or “Until user agents can…”. But the WAI never updated the official document “User agent support for technology“. So we had a nice dead end.

WAI has tried to overcome this situation making the WCAG 2 neutral from technology. But it has created another problem. As Joe Clark’s posted on A list apart “To hell with WCAG 2“:

WCAG 1 was strongly HTML-specific. Everybody recognized that as a problem in an age when formats that blind people love to hate, like PDF and Flash, are slowly becoming accessible. So WCAG 2 had to be technology-neutral.
But in so doing, it imagined a parallel universe in which the vast majority of web content ceased to be plain-Jane HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

It envisioned a world in which lots and lots of Flash, PDF, and other, as-yet-uninvented formats were available and intended to be accessible. To accommodate this dreamworld, WCAG 2 was written and rewritten and rerewritten to apply to everything. Along the way, it lost the ability to apply to the real things real developers work on every day—plain-Jane HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

I will try to explain the concept “Accessibility support by 3 examples”:

  • If you include a movie on your page, how do you include the subtitles?
  • If you include an image, how do you include the alternate text?
  • If you include a custom control (e.g. a flash interactive movie), how do you include an alternative content?

The key is to include the alternative version in a way that user agents including assistive technologies can understand and use. That’s “Accessibility Supported”.

So, what’s the big deal on it? Well, WCAG 2 has thought even on technologies that are not already invented.

“Accessibility Supported” means

  • The new technologies are designed in a way that user agents including assistive technologies could access all the information they need to present the content to the user.
  • the user agents and assistive technologies may need to be redesigned or modified to be able to actually work with these new technologies.

So, if the two previous points are true, the technology will work with user agents and assistive technologies.

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