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The Internet

Federally enforced HTML compliance 201

gmezero writes "Well, well, well, it looks like we might finally start seeing an end to the craptacular websites that can only be viewed with "Web Browser v9.5 beta 3". Acording to an article on ZDNet, the Fed will begin forcing all federal sites and those of companies doing business with the government to be handicapped friendly. Gee maybe now we can finally seperate the "real" HTML coders from the (insert ANY page builder tool name here) loosers! " Interesting idea-it seems heavy-handed, but the article itself does a good job of explaining why this would be a good thing.
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Federally enforced HTML compliance

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    You have the right to publish whatever you want and the government shouldn't tell you what format you need to use.

    Bzzzt, thanks for playing "Constitutionally Recognized Liberties!"

    The First Amendment says very specifically that Congress is forbidden from passing laws abridging the freedom of the press. (The Fourteenth Amendment then extends the First Amendment to also prohibit State legislatures from doing likewise.) This is a Good Thing, and a great boon to the American democracy (don't forget, kids, the First Amendment is not universal -- many other democracies don't have freedom of the press held in such sacrosanct regard as we do).

    However, the First Amendment does not say that the Government is compelled to do business with those whose speech they find objectionable. The Government would not be forced to publish their budgets in the newsletter of the Ku Klux Klan, for instance -- the Government would choose instead to publish their budgets in a more community-oriented paper. Hustler magazine is not invited to White House press briefings, but the New York Times and Washington Post certainly are.

    The Government has no ability to say "Hey! You! I don't like what you're saying, or the HTML format you're using! Change it!"

    The Government does have the ability to say, "If you want to do business with us, then you must adhere to these guidelines."

    The first is an example of tyranny, of the Government quashing the free press by edict. The second is an example of capitalism, of the Government engaging in contracts and agreements with the free press.

    The first is absolutely un-American, while the second is quite comfortably within the social contract the United States was founded upon.
  • According to half-wit Simpson, quoted in this article,"this is...a civil rights issue." Since when did anyone have a "right" to the work of another person, or to force another to make his work meet their needs?

    I can't help but think that this is just the beginning of federal meddling with the net.

    God save us from clueless bureaucrats.

  • What concerns me is not the government wanting to make their sites work for the disabled, it's Miss Simpson's assertion that "it's a basic right." It isn't. Do the government have a right to demand that companies doing business with them make their web sites conform to their standards? I don't know, I don't recall any legislation on this.

    This whole thing may seem innocuous on its face, but the zealous do-gooders in the District of Corruption never stop with "good enough" and tend to take things to the extreme. I imagine this sillyness will be extended to the entire Internet in one way or another.

  • The last time I checked, the owner of the parking lot still has the right to determine who can park where, if at all, the feds' misguided efforts to the contrary notwithstanding.

    No one wants to keep disabled people from reading their web site, they're just steamed at everyone trying to tell them how they are to use their property.

  • Just require that pages can be optionally viewed and used with text-only browsers such as Lynx.
  • Read the article. This is supposed to affect government websites, or websites of companies that receive federal money. The idea is that disabled people have the right to access government information, or information from companies that receive taxpayer's money.

    ---

  • Standards, yet, no definition what so ever about how or what is to be standardized. This potentially could mean black in white, with everything written with an H1 tag so it's easy to read. I don't doubt that something that stupid is possable.

    I think your being paranoid about it. Think about how modern HTML is supposed to work: your HTML pages have the content, and the formatting is specified in CSS files. Thus, if someone needs huge fonts and b/w, if all the content in the HTML file should be decoupled from the formatting info in the CSS, they can just overrride your style sheet.

    And, it doens't say that it's government contracted websites, it seems to imply that it's companies that do buisness with the government. So, if someone in the government want's to buy a copy or Red Hat, then all of the Red Hat sites have to conform? It's not clear, but, again, it's not something that I would put past the government.

    I am inclined to think this "business with the government" language is the reporter's bad choice of words ;).

    The point, IMHO, is that the government, if it wants to buy a product from some company, it should choose one that meets some accessibility standard. Not that companies are forced to meet that standard, but that unless they meet it, the government won't do business with them.

    So, if someone in the government want's to buy a copy or Red Hat, then all of the Red Hat sites have to conform? It's not clear, but, again, it's not something that I would put past the government.

    It's not clear, you're right. But there could be a case for it. If the government decides to spend its money on Red Hat, shouldn't the greatest number of tax payers be able of seeing what is it that their government spends their money in?

    Of course, this argument, in this form, is bogus, since it can give rise to the situation you fear, that is, govt buys a single RH 6.0 copy and demands RH to rewrite their site, at RH's cost.

    But make a small change in it. Now, make government restrain itself from buying stuff from companies that don't run accessible sites. Now you have given an incentive to companies for making their sites accessible (otherwise they can't compete for government PO's).

    Not that I believe every single purchase government makes should be from a supplier with accessible web pages, BTW. It would be nice, though.

    ---

  • If there are enough handicapped users out there then that should create a great market for handicapped friendly webpages. You could even go so far as to create an organization that tests and awards a 'handicapped friendly' logo to pages that are handicapped friendly. But don't go and use the force (yes, force, as in the barrel of a gun or trigger of a bomb) of Government to make everyone else comply with your own personal adjenda or beliefs. Use the free market. It has been shown to work wonders.

    Yeah, right. Handicapped people have been around for as long as civilization has been around. Can you tell me examples of special services for disabled people springing up in free market societies without government intervention?

    The point is: Contrary to your first premise in the paragraph above, what if there are not enough handicapped users out there so that it should create a great market for handicapped friendly webpages? (I should add "reasonably priced" to that, too.)

    Do you believe that people have a right to know where their taxpayer dollars go? And if so, do you believe that a handicapped person has any less rights in this matter?

    ---

  • WYSIWYG HTML editors and tools improve ease of design of a web site many times over. Things such as Macromedia Dreamweaver and Cold Fusion aren't exactly newbie tools.

    Creating really complex web pages gets quite difficult when working exclusively in text. Sure it's possible to do, but if you have a nice WYSIWYG editor which generates standard compliant HTML, why not take advantage of it?

    I'm not saying people shouldn't work in text. On the contrary, slight modifications and fixes are sometimes easier to do when working in a text editor... however when you start moving layers from one side of the page to another and working with javascript hooks.... it makes more sense to do it in a WYSIWYG editor.

    --
  • Actually, there is a nice provision in copyright law for books. I believe that if the original publisher of a book does not produce a braille edition with a specified period of time, then a braille publisher is allowed to create one without having to negotiate a contract with the publisher/author. This is the sort of legislation that makes a great deal of sense.

    While blind people may not be able to use the web to its fullest, I never cease to be amazed at how well the blind (and the deaf) manage to live such normal and productive lives in the ordinary world without much in the way of assistance. It is truly a tribute to the human spirit.
  • If you think providing facilities for the disabled and the often legally mandated assistants that must be hired to help them don't cost anything, you are delusional. There is a lot more to the cost than lawsuits.

    Here in Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority claims it is spending 25% of its capital budget on ADA retrofits. This is for a system that is in horrible condition and requires a lot of capital money just to keep it running at all. I happen to think that the CTA overstates what it spends on ADA compliance, but there is no doubt that elevators at L stations cost money, wheelchair lifts for buses cost money, paratransit services cost money, etc. This is a public, not a private example, but it should demonstrate plainly that ADA compliance costs money.

    By saying that Muni could have avoided the lawsuit by providing an alternate format, you only prove my point. If the web format isn't accessible, no one can have it. To put up text would require additional money to both assess the requirements for the blind, create the files, and then maintain them. They would probably take the easy way out and produce text only documents, thus taking away a potentially useful graphical feature from the vast majority of the people who are not blind. (Actually, I oppose PDF myself, but that's because I think the format sucks).

    As for not wanting my charity, the disabled certainly don't want to be labeled as receiving charity, but in fact they do want to force me to spend money providing facilities for them. They want the law to force businesses to provide these facilities - again, regardless of any demonstrated need - then the business passes the cost along to its customers and owners. I guess technically it isn't charity since it's not voluntary, so we'll have to label it a tax.

    To say that because each and every disabled activist isn't a radical is just a dodge. It's certainly a valid criticism of the free software community that it has a large percentage of flamers in it. It is no less valid to say that there are a large number of extremists among the disabled activists. Of course disagree with them (as I do) and you'll be labeled "able-ist", a version of the "race card" I notice that you couldn't resist trotting out at the earliest opportunity.

    Like I say, we should build facilities for the disabled where they make sense. Curb cuts are cost effective. Ground level ramps at buildings are usually cost effective. If demand for disabled services are there, other less cost effective services might be warranted. But it is ridiculous to say that every facility constructed everywhere must be fully accessible to the disabled without regard to cost or whether or not they will be used (which is what the ADA requires) it simply wrong.

    Other services (such as paratransit) for the extremely disabled should be provided by government agencies out of social service funds.
  • This is a major trend. There has already been a lawsuit against Muni (the SF transit agency) for using PDF graphics on their site. Disabled activists claimed that devices for the blind can work with them as easliy as with text.

    While I think we should provide for the truly disabled (which compose only a tiny fraction of the outrageously large number of people the government classifies as disabled), the ADA is a terrible piece of legislation. It is rooted in the philosophy of a twelve year old kid, who whines when "Jimmy gets to have a BB gun" and wonders why he can't have one too. Fundamentally, the premise behind this law is that if each and every person can't have something, nobody should have it.

    Of course the proponents call it "civil rights" legislation. But real civil rights don't require other people to spend huge amounts of their own money. The ADA is really a huge tax bill. It forces private America to spend large amounts of money on facilities and assistants for the disabled without regard to benefit/cost, how many people will actually use them, etc. If the government had actually passed a huge tax increase and used it to pay for these things, the people would have rebelled. So instead, the government just passes a law the makes businesses pay for it, which gets passed on to consumers as a hidden tax.

    Make no mistake, taking care of the disabled is a matter of charity, not civil rights. The disabled advocates demand that (often hurling vicious insults that would never be tolerated from anyone else at government officials who won't do what they demand. I know, I've sat through public meeting on this) this be treated as a civil rights issue so they can have "dignity". It's just a way to disguise the handouts they receive.

    Don't get me wrong, for those people who are truly disabled (such as those who are paralyzed) I fully believe that the government should raise funds via taxes to provide services and accomodations for them. Many of these people suffer a tremendous drop in quality of life as a result of their disability and any compassionate society would do what it can to help these people. The mentally ill should receive treatment. Businesses should get tax breaks and assistance for employing disabled individuals. Reasonable facilities such as accessible restroom and curb cuts should be provided. But these should be provided as matter of charity and kindness, not entitlement. Making it an entitlement only leads to ever more demands and ridiculous claims and lawsuits (the list is endless, examples on request).
  • Posted by kiezkahse:

    Please, don't go blaming corporate mutation of a bad language for even worse code. No matter what NS or MS did, it doesn't change the fact that lots of people (webwankers?) use img src="whatever.gif" and leave it at that without the kinder, gentler height= and width= for graphics-enhanced browsers, let alone an alt= tag for Lynx, the preferred ADA-Compliant browser where I work. And it certainly wouldn't change the fact that Corporate-made GUI HTML spawners will screw up pretty bad -- anybody seen MS Publisher HTML? It converts the file to a .gif and makes an HTML image map to go over it. Imagine how that would look in Lynx... (shudder!)
    --
    Kiez Kah-se'
    Some Guy Out West
  • Posted by Alice in Uberland:

    If the government regulates the proper use of HTML, this could be a great benefit to the internet as a whole. It starts with making pages handicap accessable, which isn't that difficult from a design standpoint.

    If we're lucky, the government will carry this on to browsers. What I wouldn't give to force browsers to follow a stardard so that I can design under one and know that it will work with other browsers equally well.

    This is just the benefit to the designers. Give the blind people a break. They're already blind, isn't that challenge enough without people making things more difficult for them out of sloth?
  • Okay, I like the idea of making all the HTML be HTML compliant, but what about the extensions that aren't really HTML at all - like Java applets?

    I worry about that because where I work we want to develop a user interface that will need Java, and we are federally funded so this law could affect us.

    (What we want to do is not even possible in a CGI form, so that's why we are looking at Java.)

    Also, some things don't make any sense for handicapped access anyway - for example making a site that produces roadmaps be accessable to blind people on braille terminals makes zero sense. If they can't see the site, they can't see the maps it produces either.

  • [going off-topic here, but...]

    Whoever wrote the headline (hemos?) didn't read the article carefully.

    I've noticed a lot of that recently -- people will submit articles (sometimes not having read them all the way through themselves), then they get posted, and other people get all up in arms over a headline and blurb that have been sensationalised.

    -lee...not suggesting anything more that that people actually read through and understand articles before they submit. it'd save everyone a lot of trouble in the long run.
  • First, I think people are confusing standard HTML with handicap-accessible HTML. One can certainly write standards-compliant HTML that links to a Real Audio file, but without a text translation, that file wouldn't be accessible to the deaf. By the same token, various proprietary HTML tags are quite understandable to the disabled.

    Second, I'm concerned at whether the gov't will enforce wrong-headed design on the web. In the above example of a RA file with no textual companion, it would seem logical to me that the solution is to develope a speech-to-text browser plug-in, not to mandate that the site in question pre-translates the audio. I'd much rather see the gov't make grants to the innovative companies that develop software to translate existing pages into handicap-friendly pages than to go down this path. Plus, translation software makes *everything* accessible, not just those companies that deal with the gov't.
  • There is obviously some material that cannot be
    presented to handicapped users in any valid format.
    There's no way to change this. But the article
    is not about making music available to deaf people,
    or graphics available to the blind; instead, it's making content that *can* be represented in words
    and sentances (Such as tax forms, new bills in
    Congress, contracts, EULAs, documentation for
    software products, etc etc) into a form that all
    web users will be able to access. And this form
    already exists: It's called HTML (at least,
    as defined by the W3C). If a page is written
    in an HTML 4.0 compatible manner, then those with
    disabilities will be able to use the page
    without hassle by the browsers specifically made
    for them.

    If you have Real Audio or Flash or other A/V content on a site, then it should be possible
    to present a text-version of the above without
    too much extra work. For example, if a .gov
    site made available Clinton's State of the Union
    address as an RA stream, they can also make it
    text only and present that as well. If, on
    the other hand, the A/V material is eye or
    ear candy, as opposed to useful content, then you
    can simply provide, as ALT text, that the material
    is only for presentation only, and need not be
    heard or seen to appriciate the rest of the content
    on the sight (Namely, this can be done with ALT="").

    But in all serious, this is a *good good good* thing. The HTML and the Web space in general has
    been polluted by the Browser Wars, and taking
    steps to finally distill the waters such that
    there is one standard that *all* browsers on
    *all* platforms for *all* users can understand
    and present without difficulty.

    (And if you want some more fun, read up in
    comp.infosystems.web.authoring.html, and look
    for a loon called Schlake who thinks the entire
    ng is out to get him.)
  • HTML compliance, while not explicitly stated, is
    there in the fact that many pages that are layed
    out using Tables (as opposed to CSS) come out
    as gobblitygook on most browsers used by the
    handicapped (specifically, ones for the blind).
    Also, this will require those that use images
    to include ALT tags to make sure that the pages
    are navigatable.

    And in the end, this makes it a better web for all
    of us.
  • Are you using IE 2.0 or something? IE V5.0 seems to be the MOST non Compliant Browser to date. In addition, it tries to format the screen BEFORE displaying ANY text. This is backwards thinking. I want to start reading TEXT right away, and look at the pictures later... Microsoft needs to spend more time getting a product to WORK, and NOT being first to market. My .02 worth.
  • Uhhh, it's not about standards, or the government regulating anything. The government is free to choose which companies they will do business with using any criteria they please, assuming the criteria violate no laws.

    And as far as the social darwinists who seem to hate any charity towards their fellow humans, Universe! People who would check any code before installing it onto their box will let just about any stupid meme infest their brains. Clue phone ringing! We don't have a free market economy - never did. Look at all the corporate handouts, tax cuts, subsidies, etc. we give out! Make one move towards helping out actuall human beings, however, and some people get all in a tizzy. How dare that big bad government give my money to some starving half blind quadrapelegic person! I want them to give my money to ConglomoChem so they can compete with those nasty foreign companies.

    What makes me most sad is when people take the meanest, most selfish and self indulgent parts of a philosphy and use them as a stick to bash others. We all know governemnt is a Bad Thing(tm) according to libertarian party dogma, but hey, this is a free association issue. We wouldn't limit a company's or individual's freedom to associate with whomever they choose, according to whatever guidelines they want to set, but let the government say they won't do business with people who don't comply with certain (minimal, sensible) guidelines regarding information accessibility, and all the libertarians and social darwinists get all irate.

    Making sure everyone has equal access to information is a Good Thing(tm) and a prerequisite to a real free market.

  • Suppose I made some product which would be of no interest to any persons with any sort of disability?

    I'd be interested if you could give an example; I certainly can't think of any.

  • Whoops, shouldn't trust pre-beta software...
  • No, read his statement again:

    Suppose I made some product which would be of no interest to any persons with any sort of disability?

    He was suggesting that there is some product he could make which would be of no interest to anyone with any disability. That's what I was disagreeing with. He'd obviously not considered the needs of disabled people very carefully.

    I'd suggest you've fallen into the same trap. Many people who are registered blind actually have some eyesight, but need extremely strong and unusual prescriptions - they'd be very interested in an opticians site. People who've lost limbs often want their replacement limbs to look unobtrusive, hence interest in well-padded footware like running shoes, and gloves.

    I must admit defeat on the subject of people without any ears though!

    As to whether I'd want someone to say "do it anyway", I understand that that's the point of the "Americans with Disabilities" Act - to enforce companies to make provision for disabled access to their services, even if there is no evidence of strong demand for such access. This move is just an extension of that same philosophy into the Information Superhighway (© Al Gore).

    I guess one of the drivers for this policy is that government departments have to be seen to be non-discriminatory employers. If you believe the stats on the zdnet article, that would imply that up 1 in 30 government employees "have vision problems" (sic). That's probably a lot of employees who, unless something positive is done, will find their jobs harder to do as business moves more and more into internet technologies for their interactions.

  • Businesses, once "forced" to hire disabled workers (by no longer having an excuse not to) usually find them to be especially motivated workers.

    Absolutely - I've worked with a wheelchair-bound woman, and when I consider the challenge getting into work was for her, I can see how the rest of the day was a doddle for her! The difficulty is in forcing people to think a little before making silly decisions which inadvertantly put disabled people at a disadvantage.

  • Well, the U.S. Government _created_ the Internet. Even before Al Gore ;-)
  • Any page that makes use of tables for layout purposes isn't friendly. That's about 99% of the WWW.

    One needs to understand the semantics as well as the syntax of HTML. Tables aren't for layout - period.

    /mill
  • The whole point of HTML is to have a format that is accessible. If people really don't give a damn about this they should use postscript or PDF. They get full control of the appearence on the client end and they don't pollute HTML with crap.

    Lets say you are interested in the development of the Linux kernel. Every day you go to http://www.flashykernelnews.com to read the latest about the kernel developments. Unfortunately one day you get run over by a car and you lose your sight. Are you now not interested in the Linux kernel developments? Because now http://www.flashykernelnews.com is not accessible to you anymore.

    'They make a product that is of no interest to a disable person like you'.

    When used correctly HTML is accessible without any additional cost. Producing multiple versions (tape, braille, whatever) have additional costs. BUT of course all govt material should be accessible to all its citizens. Any other way would make people that can't access the govt material second rate citizens. If they are they shouldn't pay one dime to this govt that treating them like that.

    /mill
  • CSS1, CSS2, and CSS-positioning takes care of that. Of course CSS came at the same time Netscape decided to implement all their kewl extensions instead of doing the right thing.

    Btw, I have no problems with tables or images - when they are used correctly.

    Artists that express themselves in sound or visually should do just that. Those forms of expression are mostly inaccessible.

    HTML on the other hand was created to address these problems. People that misuse HTML is flipping the bird to all people with disabilities who had a great chance to a better life with HTML.

    I want to be a fly on the wall when one of these artists/web designers explain for their blind son/daughter that they can't access daddy's/mommy's work because daddy/mommy has been 'creative'.

    /mill
  • I can write a compiler for C that changes the semantics of "+" to mean substraction. Obviosly this also means what I have created isn't C anymore either.

    If you want to tell the user agent how to visually render your pages it should be through style sheets. Using tables are a bad hack that is undermining the benefits of HTML.

    /mill
  • I was trying to point out the flaw in considering a certain kind of information uninteresting to people with disabilities.

    I won't force anyone to use HTML in a correct way, but a government should do what is best for all its citizens. It is a good thing they are enforcing this on their own sites.

    I don't want govt to legislate this however. I will do my best to make things hard for those that do misuse HTML though.

    /mill
  • Umm, if morons like you would use HTML correctly we wouldn't have to put a anti-moron filter in the browsers.

    A table is for marking up tabular data not for you to mimick a newspaper.

    /mill
  • Hmm, lets see. HTML+ (http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/HTMLPlus/htmlplus_1.html ) was circulating in 1993. Netscape was founded (http://home.netscape.com/company/about/background er.html#milestones) in April 1994. HTML+ contained tables.

    Hakon W. Lie's style sheet proposal (http://www.w3.org/People/howcome/p/cascade.html) that influenced CSS greatly came in Oct 1994. At the same time Netscape released Navigator 1.0. Version 2 came about a year later and still no sign of style sheet support in it. Say hi to FONT, BLINK et al though.

    In contrast Viola (http://ftp.sunet.se/pub/www/clients/viola/) supported tables in May 1994 (looking at the screenshots at Sunet) and had rudimentary style sheet support. Heck, just look at the screenshots and consider where we are 5 years later.

    /mill
  • Creative pages? Nothing creative with misusing a tool.

    All these so called "web designers" try to accomplish is to map their previous experiences of newspapers and such to the WWW. The WWW is not a newspaper. It is a different media with a different way to do things.

    If you want full control over the visual appearence of a page you should use postscript or PDF. What you are doing now is no better than MS creating their own version of Java or trying to change the meaning of "open source".

    /mill
  • http://www.cast.org/bobby

    http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL has lots of information on accessibility in general.

    /mill
  • Man, please tell me this is a joke. If not, I am going to write my congressman.

    The government in the USA seems to regulate EVERYTHING they can thing of for the sole purpose of justifying thier existance. IMHO, thier purpose is to insure that no one infringes on anothers freedoms. And, it's not my god give write to use whatever browser I wish and force companies to comply to writing web pages that I can read.

    Given our politicians known backgrounds, I suppose this affects porn sites most.

  • Sorry, I couldn't open it this morning, and from the posts I read b4 mine and the little blurb here on /., it didn't sound anything like you discribe.

    I finally got threw to it, and it does say for the disabled. But, I found something very uncomfortable about some of the wording.

    Standards, yet, no definition what so ever about how or what is to be standardized. This potentially could mean black in white, with everything written with an H1 tag so it's easy to read. I don't doubt that something that stupid is possable.

    And, it doens't say that it's government contracted websites, it seems to imply that it's companies that do buisness with the government. So, if someone in the government want's to buy a copy or Red Hat, then all of the Red Hat sites have to conform? It's not clear, but, again, it's not something that I would put past the government.

    I don't like the looks of it still, but I do see more clearly where it's comming from. I would probably say that if the government were to put all thier money and energy into something to accomplish this goal, it might be better served by writing some guidlines that SUGGEST how to make sites better for the disabled, and spending some time working on the disabled side (better browser preformance for disabled, etc).

    Legal requirements imposed seems a bit much, and I think I am against it still. Maybe someone should from a privately funded project using GNU/GPL tools, to promote internet access for the disabled, and make things easier for them. Now, that would not only get my support, but it would also get some of my cash.

  • Me: Legal requirements imposed seems a bit much, and I think I am against it still.

    AC: but if someone is too lazy to use tags then the best browser in the world isn't going to describe a picture to them.

    I shouldn't be making light of this, but this is actually humorous. K, if it should be a law, will we have special net police who track down the lazy evil villans who forget to put ALT tags in thier HTML, and imprison them for, what, say 5 years? "what are you in for man?" "Who me? Oh, I sold software to the government, and didn't put ALT tag's in my web page..." "oh, I ran a mall public internet kiosk, and forgot to put a 'warning, some internet web sites may cause dizzyness' sign on it."

    Ack... Spend money on awareness, not legislation. You really think the legal system, police, courts, judges, and all that don't have enough stupid laws to deal with, now THIS should be a law?

  • by WWWWolf ( 2428 )
    YES! YES! GREAT! EXCELLENT! At last we get this... We HTML fascists can finally give the doubters an undeniable reason to force the HTML compliance!

  • I think he's trying to compare Lynx to an old car that has to run on leaded gas. And in one sense, I suppose, he's right.

    However, I find a disturbing trend among the people posting here: those in favor of this idea seem to insist that all WYSIWYG editors are evil and are the cause of this problem. Actually, they're not: a perfectly Lynx-compliant site can be constructed in an editor.

    What makes these sites unaccessible is stuff like images without ALT tags, recorded speeches when a transcript is not posted, and things like that. Now granted, I tend to work a lot in "hand-crafted HTML" myself, but I use a WYSIWYG editor for the basic design (I then hand-code the pages based off of that design). Nonetheless, I make sure my page displays acceptably in all sorts of browsers, from Netscape to IE to iCab all the way back to WebTV and Lynx. Sure, I do use enhancements in some places, but never those which cripple the page on another browser (or, if they do, I provide alternative access to the data). It's not terribly difficult.

    WYSIWYG editors are not Bad Things. It's the designers who misuse them. These editors are meant to be tools, not crutches.
  • About the start of 97, a law was passed in Australia that no-one can restrict the viewability of thier web site, by any minority, or they _can_ be sued, this was set in place by the equal opportunities board, the main point that I heard when I was listening to this, is that you should: "Always ALT tags, and always test it in as many web browsers as you can, even a browser called lynx...".
  • There is more to it. Things like descriptions in tables and images which can be converted to speech.

    If you want to check conformance to usability guidelines and have some advice on what you could do to improve usability try Bobby
  • Just because I have no use for a given product does not mean that I have no interest.

    I could be shopping for someone else. I could be doing research on a product or company.

  • In the above example of a RA file with no textual companion, it would seem logical to me that the solution is to develope a speech-to-text browser plug-in, not to mandate that the site in question pre-translates the audio.

    And which browser does your plug-in work with? Please don't say, "all," because that's not believable. The point is to make the page content available to all regardless of the browser used. That pretty much requires the accessability features mentioned.

    Doug Loss

  • People need to remember that this is not the Federal Governments job. They have been sticking their fingers into too many pies over the last few (well, 40 or 50) years. Its time that people wake up and stop allowing their rights to abrigated by an intrusive Federal Government that mandates to everyone how you will act, think, and feel concerning all subjects.

    I cannot believe the comments that I am reading - re: Standards are good - Don't you realize what this is? It is a gigantic infringement on our 1st Amendment rights, not to mention the involvement of a burdensom federal bureaucracy in the fastest growing economic force in the world. Actions like these stifle economic growth, not encourage it.

    Yes, its a good thing to make your HTML easy to use by everyone (you hit more markets by doing this, more customers and more money) BUT IT ISN'T THE FED'S BUSINESS how I design my webpages.

    If there are enough handicapped users out there then that should create a great market for handicapped friendly webpages. You could even go so far as to create an organization that tests and awards a 'handicapped friendly' logo to pages that are handicapped friendly. But don't go and use the force (yes, force, as in the barrel of a gun or trigger of a bomb) of Government to make everyone else comply with your own personal adjenda or beliefs. Use the free market. It has been shown to work wonders.

    Brian
  • I think it's dubious to argue that a requirement I include descriptive ALT tags for images and make pages that are navigable without using image maps (not requiring pages to be without image maps, just giving an alternate form of navigation), if (and only if) I wish to do business with the government, somehow affects my ability to speak freely and openly.

    If you make a product that's of no interest to any disabled person, that doesn't mean a disabled person might not be browsing your site as part of their job function. (Suppose they're a purchaser for an agency.)

    People should keep in mind that HTML 4.0 requires those alt tags for just these reasons, and has several other required features which make pages more accessible to the disabled. A page that's strictly HTML 4.0 compliant (or compliant with a future successor, more than likely) is likely to pass a "disability test" without modification.

    Last but not least, I think a pure "free market rah rah rah" attitude would be that any customer is free to set whatever requirements to do business with them that they want, and there's no reason that shouldn't extend to government agencies as customers just like it does to private groups. If you think it's just too much to comply with the requests of a potential customer, you're free to not do it, and they're free to go to someone who doesn't feel that way.

  • i agree every web pages should display correctly with non-standard browser, including lynx (text mode), NetPositive from BeOS, Voyager from QNX, Opera, etc. There's live outside netscrape and internet exploiter!
    what i don't like when i look a site are all the buggy java applet that take forever to load and does not work with NS/IE and really don't work with N+ or Voyager :-(
    --
  • Actually it as quite the article of forced compliance... Browsers used by the handicapped tend to fall in to the camp of Lynx. While there are newer versions of Lynx out there that support tables and such. From what I've encountered in my experience, a majority of handicapped users are still using low-end equipment that is frequently "hand-me-down" caliber. We're talking 386/486 running DOS/Win3.1 and quite possibly a DOS based lynx browser. ...No tables, no sound, no java/javascript, no CSS, etc...

    A well designed, HTML complient site fails gracefully down to the lowest common denominator browser, and a well designed HTML complient site is attractive and easy to navigate be it viewed in Lynx of IE5.

    If you had a better understanding of the technology, you wouldn't be making the comment you made.
  • HTML compliance holds to a principle of your page being able to fail gracefully down to the lowest common denominator, no matter what wigged out browser specific tags you throw into the mix might do.

    HTML allows for you to put anything you want into that page, but you better allow for alternate methods to view the content when the target browser isn't available.

    Compliance doesn't mean you can't build a garbage page, only that it be designed for everyone to share in the garbage to the best of their ability.
  • Why? Because HTML 4.0, CSS and even XML, provide all the tools necessary to provide accessibility while letting designers imaginations roam free. Take a look at the specs on the these standards ( w3c.org [w3c.org]). There is some really cool stuff one can do with the new standards.
    Is it a tax on companies? Not really. The Federal government has always had standards for companies that want to work with it (frome safety and health issues to civil rights). The companies have always had a choice, though. If they didn't like the government's rules, they could do business with someone else.
    Even private companies have standards they hold one another to when conducting bussiness.
    Finally, even if you don't care about people with disabilities, there is a very good reason for the Federal government to be pushing standards compliance: effeciency. If every company keeps using non-standard (and incidentally non-accessable) HTML, every document will have to be examined or at the very least, undergo further processing befor it can be integrated with standards compliant data. We the tax payers will save money and time by mandating that standard HTML, XML, CSS, and even DOM and RDF are used.
    To me, it appears that the ultimate benefits of requiring accessibility will reach far beyond simply allowing more access to government docs. This effort will help all of us be more standards compliant, reducing the need for re-processing data and wasting time that could be better spent understanding its meaning.
  • All New York state web sites must be designed to be viewed by HTML 3.2 and have ALT's for all graphics. I think there are more standards, but those are the major ones.
  • microsoft does business with the gov't. it will be nice to see their new site. :)

    sure, the net is more then the us, but the us doesn't have to be alone here. somewhere on the european union's website (http://europa.eu.int) are noises about disabled rights (i hope). wonder if the eu and it's member states can enact similar legislation?

    time to go find my mep...
  • >One needs to understand the semantics as well as
    >the syntax of HTML. Tables aren't for layout -
    >period.

    It's easy to be an HTML purist when such statements are true, but I've seen some really well laid out sites that use tables for such a purpose. I'm all for accessability, but what a bland tasteless web we'd have woven if it weren't for some of these enhancements (ie. tables, images).

    Face it, the web isn't just for engineers and the odd computer scientist any longer. Strip out all of the advertising, and it's the people's web. How can an artist express him/herself with only a gray background and some ugly browser-defined font?

    - Darchmare
    - Axis Mutatis, http://www.axismutatis.net
  • That article is not about standards compliance in the way we normally think of it. It's about the government controlling the way websites present the information. Sounds pretty close to censorship to me. One thing I don't get... the government doesn't tell book publishers that they have to conform to a specific guidline (font size, line spacing, etc...). So why do they have the right to tell me how my page looks. Granted it makes sense to make a page accessible to as many people as possible even from a business point of view. But it's my page, it's my information, and I'll damn well make it look anyway I want. If I want to enclose the entire page in a blink tag I will.
  • Whatever you may think about government's role in the Internet, mandating certain standards levels is a Good Thing.

    They made TCP/IP compulsory for Milnet and Arpanet. Was this a bad decision? Nope.

    Now let's just hope that no-one can subvert w3c. Otherwise the government will have to ratify each w3c standard instead of leaving w3c to work things out itself.

  • Let's be careful here: we're talking about being standards-friendly, which is a Good Thing, not being lynx-friendly. Obviously, being friendly to some specific browser is not a good thing, since you should be friendly to them all.

    Being text-mode friendly would be nice, but it might cripple a few things. If you designed your site sanely it wouldn't matter though.

  • ... neoplanet IS internet explorer (with a different looking interface, just like aol's browser).
  • You do realize that perfect spelling with no caps makes you look as big a schmoe as the "loosers" you rightfully dreide, don't you?
  • anyone else get that problem (I have to use it for work BTW)
  • no, I'm just impatient - it wont render it properly unless it's fully downloaded it. I guess that's what "based on Mosaic" means.
  • All hail the big, nasty HTML coder. I'm skeeerrd...what will (s)he try next? C++?!
  • > This idea is complete bs. It's just going to create added work for authors and violates freedom of the press.

    I bet you're imagining HTML-cops policing every website and didn't bother to even read the summary to see that it's a government standard. As in government pages and government business. Believe it or not, there are other specs you have to follow when you do business with the government too.

    But I guess it wouldn't be slashdot if people actually read and comprehended, would it?
  • Yeah, suddenly it's "all so clear". Pardon me while I put down my pitchfork and kick the mud off my boots.

    Any connection to enforced HTML standards is implied, not stated. "Standards" are to be "unveiled" - this could mean tighter compliance requirements so that crippled browsers (no pun intended) or it may mean a set of plaintext guidelines that bear resemblance to handicapped building access laws. It makes no connection at all to "clean code" in the article.

    Hence my criticism. But, of course, with no understanding of technology, who am I to talk?

    --Tiger
  • This sounds to me almost like someone misrepresenting an article to get his name up on /.

    Did anyone actually read this? The article's simply about enforcing handicap access to websites - making sure that special multimedia content is accessible in alternate form by people who aren't capable of using that content.

    Not one word did I see that said anything about HTML standards compliance. For all we know, they can still crapulate out those super-non-standard pages, and provide a little text link that says, "Go here to see all this in boring .txt file format."

    Proof these articles, guys. Sure, forcing HTML standards compliance is a dream many /.ers may have. This is not an article about HTML compliance, however.

    --Tiger
  • The Government does have the ability to say, "If you want to do business with us, then you must adhere to these guidelines."

    Let's not forget that the government is so incredibly huge now (thanks to legislation like this, ironically), it's virtually impossible to avoid doing business with the government if you're doing any business at all.

    Now who knows what "doing business with the government" means (the sloppy journalism was commented on earlier), but that's irrelevant to the argument at hand.

  • Most commercial sites don't seem like they'd be too hard for any disabled person to navigate through. It's really just those lame tits n' warez pages or the "World's most annoying webpage" type things. Death to Javascript! I'm not disabled so I could be wrong...
  • Web Accessibility Initiative [w3.org] by W3C

    Accessibility [htmlhelp.com] by Web Design Group

    best accessibility meme: gracefully degrading pages
  • The U.S. Government is looking at doing something good to the Internet...

    The end is nigh!!!!!
  • The thing is, most pages that are truely up to the standards, and are well designed don't do too bad in Lynx. It's people who don't bother with things like 'alt="text"' on their image links, and who worry more about big flashing graphics that can't design sites that work in Lynx.

    Also, as far as these new rules go, Lynx friendlyness may be more likely mandated than actually being standares-friendly. After all, some disabled people are considered disabled because they have this problem called 'blindness' - they have to use speech programs to read web pages to them, and anything that is Lynx friendly will go very smoothly through a speech program. Things that are not lynx friendly will not work well with those readers at all.

    And after teaching HTML and WWW design at my U for three years, I'm allowed to rant about people with poor design skills all I want, I've marked over 500 of the most horrid web site projects on the planet, and less than 300 of the good ones. Ugh. Glad I moved on to a different job with no marking involved, and very little HTML.
  • Since when did anyone have a "right" to the work of another person, or to force another to make his work meet their needs?

    Well, since it's the Government's web sites that are most affected by this, and the sites of those who do buisness (other than just paying taxes) with the Government, I think not only do people have a "right" to see it, but the makers of the pages (Government and the companies doing federal contracts) have a responsibility to the people to make that information available to all of them. And what is the main requirement that's going to be put on them? Make your sites legible. Damn, that's really gonna crimp their style, ain't it? (For those who think I'm being sarcastic, think again. Most Web designers today seem to think that the harder it is to read a page, the more "stylish" it must be. Excuse me while I puke.)
  • Hehe... be happy you just had to deal with those two. Back when I was marking projects, I was a real bastard - I marked with Netscape, Lynx, Amaya, Arena, Opera, and a nifty little parsing program that I used to find specific standard violations in projects, all at once. (Amaya is REALLY cool for marking web pages, it spews out a listing of HTML errors, and it tells you what line they happen on.) If I was still doing it now, I'd probably be using Gecko and NeoPlanet too, but still no IE, since it hates me almost as much as I hate it. (Does anyone else have trouble getting it to load anything? Dosen't matter what version I use, it just ignores me.)
  • ... neoplanet IS internet explorer (with a different looking interface, just like aol's browser).
    Not really, they put a new interface on it, which actually responds when I tell it to do things. It's the weirdest thing - I think IE knows that I don't like it or something. Also, the next version of NeoPlanet is supposed to be based on the Gecko engine, which means that it will be 100% standard compliant.
  • They're only controlling their own sites, and the sites of buisnesses that deal with them. If you want to (ab)use the Blink tag, go right ahead. Ignore standards all you want, don't use alt text on your images, set your background to lime green and your text to bright orange. (I've seen it done. *shudder*) The Gov't won't care. Unless of course you do that when you're making a site for them, or for one of the buisnesses that they deal with. Then they'll say: 'No, make it legible, take it down, or we'll cancel our contract with you.'
  • You've done a good job of setting up strawmen to knock down:

    Images aren't forbidden. They just need alternative content (possibly none) specified for those who can't or don't want to view images. Tables aren't forbidden. They're best used for row x column situations, but if they /are/ used for layout, do it in a way that makes sense, from left to right, top to bottom, so that the page is readable for those that can't or don't want to use tables.

    You're not limited to a grey background either. You are bound to the fact that I can turn off your background color, and use my own. The same thing with fonts. What you think is a nice font, I'll probably find butt-ugly and hard to read. So I'll use my own.

    If your web site breaks because of these things, you're done a very poor job of understanding the web. The web is not strictly a visual medium. A visual rendering is just one possibility.
  • "Violates freedom of the press?" I don't know if I've ever seen a lamer appeal to Constitutionality. Clue: "Freedom of the press" refers to the ability to print what you want.

    Print what you want, how you want. That's the whole drive behind creative expression! If it's mandated that I must express myself in a particular way, it's not censorship, but it is definitely limiting my freedom to express myself how I see fit.
  • http://www.flashykernelnews.com to read the latest about the kernel developments. Unfortunately one day you get run over by a car and you lose your sight. Are you now not interested in the Linux kernel developments? Because now http://www.flashykernelnews.com is not accessible to you anymore.

    If I was the one hit by a car, would the loss of my sight by my problem, or someone else's? That's the point here...this is just one more step in the relentless drive by our government to make everyone's problems everyone else's problems.
  • And clue time: there isn't any law that says that you have a right to express yourself "any way you want".

    With few exceptions, the First Amendment has been held to protect exactly that right.
  • You mean I will be able to actually use linux and netscape 4.51 to fill out the onlice fafsa??? I had to go through a lot of crap to get that filled out. Couldn't use netscape 4.51 on winblows either, had to use IE. This sounds like a "Good Thing (TM)"
  • BTW, they are coming to get your guns too.

    Sounds a little paranoid to me.
  • I had to respond, this knuckle dragger doesn't deserve such a high score.

    I think you really don't have enough context or understanding of the ADA to be as critical of it as you are. As is usually the case, you also appear to confuse the provisions of ADA with the entitlements of SSI. For the most part, ADA doesn't cost anyone anything. Damages awarded in civil suits against those who fail to comply cannot be considered a spending provision.

    Fundamentally, the premise behind this law is that if each and every person can't have something, nobody should have it.

    There is simply nothing in the legislation which offers this opinion. If you are implying that the Muni PDF case does, you are wrong. The problem there is that Muni was unwilling to provide the PDF documents in any other format. Had a text only format had been available there would be no court case. period. No one asked them to get rid of PDF.

    There are many other examples of this type of bonehead intransigence by government/ semi-government/ big companies who serve the public. You say that this type of law is another example of big brother, I say the opposite: it enables people to fight big brother. Do you imagine that these byzantine bureaucratic agencies would change their policies without the law suits?

    With few exceptions nobody but lawyers makes any money from the lawsuits, but that rarely is the point for the people pursuing them. The Muni elevator's lawsuit settled last year resulted in a settlement of approx. $14000 for each of the complainants. For the two and half years of work they put into the suit, that's peanuts -- even for the supposed welfare bums you imply most of the disabled are.

    BTW, curb cuts were not invented as part of the ADA legislation -- guess what -- it took a lawsuit. Before the lawsuit had even reached trial it had become standard practice for city engineers all over, not just in the US to specify them in construction projects. As is obvious to anyone, they don't cost more, but why was it that they had not been implemented earlier? It took a little fear to spur the actions of the otherwise good thinking city engineers.

    The disabled advocates demand that (often hurling vicious insults that would never be tolerated from anyone else at government officials who won't do what they demand. I know, I've sat through public meeting on this)

    That's some people. I don't like the way that some open source advocates behave either. What you said would been immediately unacceptable to most people if you had used the word "black" or "Jew" or "Gay" instead of "disabled". Stereotyping the disabled as a bunch of whining freeloaders is offensive to me.

    Don't get me wrong, for those people who are truly disabled...charity and kindness...

    If you are not happy with the criteria by which disability is defined then work to change it. (I also think it is too broad and this dilutes people's respect for the measures which are meant to provide equality). Most of the disabled don't want your charity. (Many who would want it probably would still want it if they weren't disabled--it has nothing to do with being disabled). Next time you are at one of those public meetings, offer $50 to the loudest disabled advocate. Get back to me if you survive.

  • Actually, MS's site is already compliant. The article says that the sites have to be able to be viewed by handicapped, etc. If you look at www.microsoft.com in lynx, it actually comes out quite well(not to mention their own text-only page), but the graphical version actually does well in Lynx. I was impressed.....
  • So you use Explorer at work?
    Is there a special force that keeps you away from Netscape?
    I'll tell you a site that isn't blocked for MSIE. - www.netscape.com
    It may be blocked by BackOffice (as seen on their howto page) by you'll get around that.
    Then you download the installer and you have a nice new browser.

    When I have to use the computers in my school, they have MSIE.
    I have kindly asked for Netscape (being that they erased it when I installed it),
    and now everyone can use his/her favorite browser (unfortunatly some prefer MSIE for some reason).

    Sites that blocks MSIE are preserving our freedom, even though they actually block it.
    Over the past many commercial sites (many, but not all of them belong Microsoft somehow),
    have blocked Netscape for Money and World Domination.
    It's a positive thing that someone stood up against them.

    Alas, that's not all of it.
    Sites that have been generated by Frontapge,
    Use broken MSIE HTML to force the use of MSIE.
    They "block" Netscape or any other non-msie page, and are very common.
    And should I mention "sorry you must use ActiveX" sites?
    Many sites like that, contain also ? instead of 's, if we browse them with linux.
    I can tell you, that almost every commercial site never cares, and we are being "blocked".

    Generaly as a policy, I decide not to give a damn over the users of MSIE.
    I won't block them or anything,
    but they have a full choice to use netscape,
    and for the cost of being enslaved to Microsoft, they better do.
    "If you want a good browser use Netscape, otherwise, don't complain and just go away".
    (I don't respond to emails with doc attachments too)

    See the point?
    Sometimes a political stand, is much more important then a content.


    ---
  • Why not also require that cars are able to run on leaded gasoline?

    Tell me where I can buy leaded gasoline in the US, and then it might matter. I'm serious, I've got an old (pre-1973) car that loves leaded gas.

    It is actually simple to make any car designed to run on unleaded gas work with leaded gas... You just have to remove the catalytic converter and replace it with a properly sized piece of straight pipe. Of course if you live in a state with emissions checks, your car will flunk. Luckily for me, we have no emissions checks or inspection where I live.

    At any rate, your question was actually backwards. It was the federal government who required that all cars be able to run on unleaded gas when they forced all cars sold in the US to have catalytic converters on them whether they could meet the tailpipe emissions without one or not (because GM, Ford, Chrysler, etc. complained about Volkswagen and Honda being able to meet emissions without a converter and thus being able to build a cheaper car).

    So even in the world of cars, the government gets their hands into "standards", and is often forced to bow to the interests of vendors.

  • It seems unlikely to me that anything rigid enough to be a federally enforced standard will both catch the significant majority of instances of pages that are difficult to read by handicapped persons, and not rule out a vast number of pages that are not actually difficult to read.

    In other words, I don't believe it's just using certain tags, etc., that make a page difficult/easy to read for a handicapped person, anymore than it is for anyone else. That opinion comes from some effort spent in designing pages and imagining how they might "sound" through a speech synthesizer.

    If they just mandate ALT tags, alternatives to scripting, etc., this will certainly improve the situation, but not rule out a large number of pages that will be hard to navigate.

    But I'd be delighted if a visually impaired person weighed in on this issue!
  • Just checked him out on Dejanews... pretty interesting stuff :-)
  • I think some of the others have given a good explanation of what I mean. There are a lot of esoteric items that the government gets into which one may not be interested in.

    It would also seem that the cost of converting your websites, supporting the disabled users who buy these products etc, might just mean that you figure that you may not wish to support them.

    *Shrug* I am all for an individual making a choice to offer or use a service.

  • This has a couple of good points, but a few scary points too.

    Standards are good. However, following standards does not mean that one will produce good code or content.

    I am not too sure if I like the comment about folks who use 'page builders' to build their sites is very valid. I am sure there are some very good writers, artists, musicians who would not be on the web if they didn't have a GUI environment.

    This move also takes away some freedom of choice by the webmasters. While I can understand that government sites are required to follow certain guidelines why would I as a possible supplier have to follow them? Suppose I made some product which would be of no interest to any persons with any sort of disability?

    How does this affect companies like Real? Macromedia? Adobe? The companies that have invested a fair amount in producing good tools for graphics savvy sites?

    Lastly, if one extends this back to publishing on dead trees, will the govt insist that all its publications be made available in braile? Will all govt phone lines have teletype available for the deaf? Hmmm .. the Clinton hearings would sure have had some interesting moments if they had showed some of the testimony in sign language ;-)

    Shri

  • Its the nature of government to start small, then expand their program when it doesn't work out the way they planned. I bet within a couple of years, this same agency will complain that the original plan is being 'subverted' and that they need to tighten the regulations. They will probably argue for disabled access to ALL pages in the United States. Next thing you know, your family webpage will have to include the 'script' to any audio files you have posted, and don't even think about using fancy graphics.
  • So you use Explorer at work? Is there a special force that keeps you away from Netscape? I'll tell you a site that isn't blocked for MSIE. - www.netscape.com It may be blocked by BackOffice (as seen on their howto page) by you'll get around that. Then you download the installer and you have a nice new browser.

    Many institutions have extremely strict policies on what can and cannot be done by their end users. Software installation is usually on the "Cannot do" list.

    (unfortunatly some prefer MSIE for some reason).

    I happen to prefer IE, thank you very much. I wish MS would get their heads out of the sand and port it to Linux.

    Sites that blocks MSIE are preserving our freedom, even though they actually block it.

    Sites that block IE haven't figured out that MS's lock on the desktop has more to do with Win, Office, and undocumented APIs as well as OEM deals, not browser dominance. They do not (yet?) own the W3C. The choice of user agent is not political.

    Alas, that's not all of it. Sites that have been generated by Frontapge, Use broken MSIE HTML to force the use of MSIE. They "block" Netscape or any other non-msie page, and are very common. And should I mention "sorry you must use ActiveX" sites?

    That is so not true. Frontpage may not generate perfect HTML, but Navigator (not Netscape! That really bugs them!) usually renders it fine. Granted, Navigator doesn't always render table cell backgrounds correctly, but that's hardly Frontpage's fault.

    Many sites like that, contain also ? instead of 's, if we browse them with linux. I can tell you, that almost every commercial site never cares, and we are being "blocked".

    The question mark/apostrophe thing is an issue of character sets. I've often run into the same problem when converting documents from Mac -> PC and back again. Again, not an issue of political importance.

    Sometimes a political stand, is much more important then a content.

    And sometimes, you'll just annoy people into thinking people with your stance are bothersome and immature.


    Mike
    --

  • $ lynx http://members.tripod.com/~msherman

    ---->8----
    THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Listen as hope and peace try to rhyme.

    Michael Jay Sherman

    [LINK]
    [LINK]
    [LINK]
    [LINK]
    [LINK] [LINK]
    "...A Porsche is not built to be something for everyone. But
    everything to someone."

    Obi-Wan and Darth Maul slashdot.org Open-source software SGI Irix 6.5
    Episode I

    © 1999 Michael J. Sherman m.sherman@erols.com Nedstat Counter
    ---->8----

    Hmmm... How about some "alt" tags?
  • It would be nice if this meant that the government was requiring suppliers to honor W3C accessibility recommendations, but the article says that they're actually going to set their own standards. If Federal suppliers are required to adhere to the government's standard, it's likely to make any competing W3C recommendation irrelevant.

    It would also be nice if they decided to coordinate with W3C on these issues, or adopt the W3C accessibility recommendations, but I'm not holding my breath.
  • This idea is complete bs. It's just going to create added work for authors and violates freedom of the press. You have the right to publish whatever you want and the government shouldn't tell you what format you need to use.

    Television isn't even held to these standards even though it is much wider used. The government dosen't force the use of closed captioning and thats how it should be.

    And to the idea that this will standardize HTML and put an end to the "This page is best viewed with" crap is also bs. All the article talked about is making disabled access more friendly. All of the unlucky webmasters are just going to have to add text to pictures and audio. It never said that the pages had to comply 100% to w3c standards. Even if 100% w3c compliance was forced, I'm sure that I'd still see all of the best viewed with crap.

  • I'm not saying that the government dosen't have the right to make their pages accesible. But forcing companies that do business with the government (and there are a lot of them) shouldn't have to do this. Just because they do do business with the government dosen't mean that their pages are filled with information about the government. If they only forced government sites to do this, disabled people could still have access to their government.
  • |This idea is complete bs. It's just going to create added work for authors and violates freedom of the press.

    Maybe you didn't even bother read it properly because I never did say all sites were subject to these standards. I was refering to the authors that this would affect and you shouldn't of assumed that I was talking about everyone.
  • It's about time someone did something about this
    problem. I can't stand those sites that
    insist on using non-standard HTML. Standards
    are a *good* thing ;}.

    Gee, maybe some of these web page designers will
    actually have to learn HTML!

    I've just been using vi to generate web pages
    for the last 5 years; works fine for me, and
    I certainly stick to standard HTML.
  • The issue isn't just about using an ALT tag with your images. The use of tables as a layout device, specific font faces, specific font sizes, and colors for links and text makes an HTML page much more difficult for a differently abled person to use.

    The original version of HTML was much more usable by a visually impaired person than today's HTML as implemented by Netscape and Microsoft. The biggest problem is that the Web has become a much more visual medium, and the graphics designers cared a lot more about the look of a page than the geeks who launched HTML. Those high-energy physicists who were among the Web's first users were focused on the information that was presented, not how it looked.

    Cascading Style Sheets are the way to rescue the Web for people who need different access to it. CSS separates the appearance of a site from the information offered by the site.

    I'm glad the feds are doing this, because the browser companies and leading Web designers are paying almost no attention to accessibility issues.

    Besides, accessible HTML is generally much better written and more standard HTML, too. All Web users could benefit from more of that.

  • by fixion ( 38352 ) on Monday April 19, 1999 @09:42AM (#1927987)
    As a hearing person who works in the Deaf community, I have a significant interest in this topic. A gross misconception need to be cleared up:

    THIS IS NOT ABOUT HTML COMPLIANCE.

    Whoever wrote the headline (hemos?) didn't read the article carefully.

    I haven't a clue what the federal standards for web accessibility for the disabled will be. A good model, though, is the W3's Web Accessibility Initiative (http://www.w3.org/WAI/). If anything, the federal standards will probably be less restrictive than the W3.

    It's important to note that making web pages accessible DOES NOT REQUIRE STANDARD HTML. You can meet the W3's WAI standards with Front Page98, NetObjects Fusion, or whatever . . . and you can hand-code the worst, most inaccessible pages with thoroughly compliant HTML 4.0.

    Nor is this about the federal government mandating how private corporations or individuals web pages must be designed. The upcoming federal standards are about making web pages OF FEDERAL AGENCIES that comply with standards of accessibility for people with disabilities, NOT about making web pages that comply with HTML 3.2 or 4.0 standards.

    Making web pages accessible is generally extremely simple if you start with accessibility in mind. It can be more difficult to go back and "retrofit" existing web sites for accessibility, depending on their complexity.

    The article also says that "firms doing business with government agencies" will have to comply with the standards, though I suspect that the phrase "doing business" is an example of crappy journalism. Typically, the government only extends that kind of regulatory weight to firms that CONTRACT with the Federal government -- which is a different thing than "doing business" with the Federal government. The government might buy computers from Vendor X (i.e. "do business"), but Vendor X is not necessarily a Federal contractor.
    I would definitely want to see more information about the implementation of these proposed federal standards before I believed that they could apply to everyone who "does business" with the government.

  • There's a bit of a problem in the way that
    articles on this topic have been written --
    reporters glossing over the facts in favor of
    a more sensational headline, and of course that
    makes it harder for the average person to
    understand what's going on here.

    One thing to keep in mind here is that this is
    primarily a story about the federal government
    deciding to mandate accessible web authoring
    practices on their own pages. In one sense,
    this is no different from any other large
    company deciding that they will follow a certain
    standard level of HTML coding on their own
    websites.

    In a broader sense, however, it's vitally
    important that information that the government
    provides can be used by everyone, and not
    necessarily exclude one type of person, especially
    not on basis of a disability. This is why
    public buildings are wheelchair accessible
    and why braille versions of documents are
    made available. As required by the ADA, if you
    are going to make something available to sighted
    people, you also need to make it available to
    people who can't see, for example.

    Now, the good thing is that the proper use of
    HTML (and other web technologies) actually makes
    it trivially EASY to provide disabled people with
    the same access to information that non-disabled
    folks enjoy. The web is a very egalitarian,
    platform-independent medium, better than any
    we've ever had before on the planet, and if you
    make your web page well, nobody should have any
    problem with accessing it.

    Of course, there's the rub -- the vast majority
    of web pages aren't made "well", and I mean that
    from a technical, HTML-pedant standpoint. The
    biggest "sin" is a lack of alternative text
    (ALT attributes) on image-heavy sites, and that
    alone makes it very hard for people with
    disabilities to use many web sites.

    Now, the solution here is NOT to throw away
    graphics-heavy, table-laden, multimedia
    extravaganza websites. The specifications that
    make the web work were designed specifically to
    allow for new advances of technology while still
    maintaining usability in older browsers. Adding
    ALT text and other features that benefit various
    users (such as disabled folks, people with older
    browers, and people with the newest tech such as
    web-enabled phones, pagers, or PDAs) is simple
    and painless, and does not mean you have to give
    up your lovely design!

    So why don't people do it? Why aren't they using
    HTML to its fullest and creating pages that aren't
    exclusionary? It's primarily a case of awareness.
    Most web designers aren't aware of the problems
    nor are they aware of how easily those can be
    solved. It's because of that lack of awareness
    that the HTML Writers Guild created the AWARE
    Center.

    The AWARE Center is a special project of the
    non-profit HTML Writers Guild, and the letters
    stand for Accessible Web Authoring Resources and
    Education. The goal of the AWARE Center is to
    promote a better understanding among web authors
    of the need for accessible web design and the ways
    in which this can be accomplished.

    You can find out more about accessible web
    authoring at the AWARE Center homepage:

    http://aware.hwg.org/ [hwg.org]

    The site is a resource for the community and is
    open to anyone, HWG member or not. If you have
    any questions, you can send me email at
    aware@hwg.org [mailto].

    --Kynn Bartlett
    Director, AWARE Center
    HTML Writers Guild

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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