Anyone remember WCAG 2.0?

Well, to those of you who have forgotten, WCAG 2.0 was that document published by the WAI on the 27th April 2006, almost a year ago.

They weren’t exactly published to universal acclaim, with a number of commenters highlighting significant problems:

And that’s before we start looking at the sheer volume of comments received by the WAI relating to the documentation. By my reckoning they have identified one thousand, five hundred and eleven comments that need to be looked at (and that is ignoring the ones simply exhorting them to download particular ringtones).

So what, if anything, have the WCAG WG actually been doing?

Have they just been sat on their arses doing bugger all and hoping the furore will die down so that they can impose their beliefs on the rest of us?

Well, actually no. They’ve been having weekly meetings to go through these issues and trying to progress them — in some case that does mean simply rejecting the issues because they disagree with them, but they’ve taken a serious look at the issues raised and tried in many cases to address them.

I’ve covered this once before when I asked What’s Happening in WCAG 2? last September, had a nose through their minutes, congratulated them on some of the changes they’d made and then whinged slightly that they’d not got around to looking at the issue of validity yet, despite receiving so many comments about it.

Well, they’ve still not yet looked at my personal validity bugbear, which I and many others have suggested to them ought to be re-included in the criteria as at least a level 2 success criterion (see Validity: Those Taking Up Arms), so I might end up with a different opinion after they’ve got to that, but for now, it does look as though they are doing a great deal of work to improve WCAG 2.0.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the minutes of the working group meetings to see what they’ve been discussing, and looking at the issues they’ve been covering. I still think they should be linking to the issues from the minutes, to save you needing to negotiate their issue tracking database to find out what they are talking about, but I’ll leave that gripe to one side for now and tell you what they’ve been up to in the last week.

They’ve re-included relative fonts — or at least the technologically-neutral equivalent of them, which is the ability to resize text without the need for assistive technology:

@@Add new level 2 SC 1.4.5 : Visually rendered text can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 per cent without loss of content or functionality.

@@Add new level 3 SC 1.4.6: Visually rendered text can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 per cent without loss of content or functionality in a way that does not require the user to scroll horizontally.

WCAG 2.0 Issue Tracking Issue 469

Of course, there’s no minimum font size specified, but this is a great step forward. In order to achieve the level 2 success criteria, you must be able to double the size of the rendered text. That’s actually quite a significant increase in size — it means that a site where the body text is rendered at about 8 pixels needs to be adjustable up to 16 pixels without loss of content or functionality. And of course the level 3 success criterion goes further and suggests you need to be able to do the same without horizontal scrolling.

I would maybe have liked to have seen this as a level one success criterion, even if watered down slightly — perhaps at level one you only need to be able to increase the text size by 50%? Nonetheless it would be churlish of me not to accept that the WAI have made a very significant improvement to WCAG 2.0 with this step.

This week, they’ve also been looking at the issue of language, with some correspondents claiming that if they are writing in Italian, technically they would need to use <span lang="en"> if they wanted to use a word like “weekend” in a sentence, despite the fact that it is actually a word commonly used in Italy and virtually adopted into the language.

Again, they’ve gone for a fairly pragmatic approach which while it may not be perfect does seem — to me at least — to have found a reasonable balance:

@@ Revise Note under 3.1.2 to read:
Note: This requirement does not apply to words and phrases that have become part of the language of the context in which they are used, to proper names, or to technical terms. If it is common for a language to borrow words from other languages, those would be considered part of that language.

WCAG 2.0 Issue Tracking Issue 610

They’ve still got a whole pile more issues to look at that need to be addressed, and addressed correctly before WCAG 2.0 will become a usable document that would make a good standard, but they are making progress towards it.

So that’s a big well done to the WCAG Working Group. Keep up the good work; keep fighting the good fight, and let’s have a look at validity now, eh?

2 Responses to “Anyone remember WCAG 2.0?”

  1. Joe Clark responds:

    Come, come, now. Font resizing is up to the browser or device and nothing else. The proposed requirement is a reiteration of one of the Working Group’s favourite lies, that px-sized text is “absolutely” sized and unenlargeable.

  2. JackP responds:

    I don’t believe it mentions px sized text — and nor do I think there was any requirement for the site to offer a size changer — as I would agree this is something that is the responsibility of the browser.

    However I do believe it is important to ensure that whatever web application is built (with HTML, Flash, whatever) will allow for this sort of adjustment.

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