In Joe We Trust
Joe Clark is defecting from the inept Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group and forming the WCAG Samurai, an invite-only group that aims to write guidelines on how to really build accessible media. But is the development community ready to listen to a new voice?
In the latest issue of A List Apart, Joe Clark lambastes WCAG 2 in no uncertain terms. He declares the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group environment thus:
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group is the worst committee, group, company, or organization Iâ€™ve ever worked with … The process is stacked in favour of multinationals with expense accounts who can afford to talk on the phone for two hours a week and jet to world capitals for meetings.
He goes on to disseminate the draft point by point, tearing off the veneer to reveal the rotten, unstable, unclear and poorly written framework that is simply not suitable for everyday, practical development. In all, he does a terrific job of throwing the entire document to the wolves, in the typical Joe Clark way — no punches are pulled and no quarter given. The guy knows what he likes and it is not WCAG 2.
Fine. Everyone is the web community know the WAI Priority Levels in WCAG 1.0 are ambiguous and often impossible to achieve. We accept this with a grain of salt and instead focus on accessibility best practices.
Joe Clark is taking the problem to its logical conclusion: form a new group to write a new set of guidelines. Like Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the church door, Joe has thrown down the gauntlet and started his own party. Except that it’s an “elitist and hypocritical,” (his words) invite-only, just-experts-that-Joe-Clark-deems-experts party. It is called the WCAG Samurai. (Yes, I think the name is dumb too, but I guess it has historical significance.)
This new working group will be made up of Joe’s “friends.” How quaintly political. It’s like the Senate handing over control to Palpatine. “Help, help! We the mindless masses cannot possibly construct one single significant proactive thought, so please help us help ourselves! We are lost without you!”
One can only assume Joe’s “friends” will be just that — people he knows. Other well-read standards and accessibility evangelists? Current members of the WAI? The guy at the sandwich shop who gives him free pickles? I don’t know because Joe doesn’t seem to want to publish his list. (“Membership rolls will not be published.”)
This party, of course, will not include all the hard-working, in-the-trenches developers who practice accessibility best practices daily. Not that I blame the WCAG Samurai. Too many spoons in the soup is one of the primary downfalls of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group.
So can we trust Joe Clark to deliver? Are we going to follow him to the heart of accessibility nirvana?
Of course. He is, after all, Joe Clark. We’ll follow him because he’s written the very extensive, well-written and widely accepted bible on accessibility and countless articles preaching the same mantra. He’s the expert.
It’s always dangerous when a rogue group splits off from the community to start their own tribe. Sometimes, dueling standards are created, like the perpetually annoying RSS/Atom thing. The last thing I want is Joe screaming to comply to his accessibility points when clients are adamant about meeting WCAG priority levels. Who is right, Joe or the Canadian government? Or better, Joe or your client?