Juicy Studio: Validity and Accessibility: The validity of documents on the web is by no means an absolute measure of its accessibility. Validity does, however, provide a solid structure on which to build accessible content. With this in mind, why does the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) working group consider validity to be an ideal, rather than a fundamental principle to guide us to tomorrow's Web?

Why indeed... in some senses, this is the WCAG being pragmatic; but in other senses it is relaxing a requirement for a benefit you'll only understand if you're an expert. Those who currently abuse automated checks will now be able to abuse them even further. So, major vendors will be able to provide content management systems which barf out vile code; yet they'll be able to pass automated checks and will claim their products produce accessible content. Since the people purchase the major products rarely know how to evaluate such claims, the vendors get away with it.

Essentially the only way to force the big players into caring about standards is to include them in accessibility requirements. Accessibility requirements make it into legislation in many countries, then at the very least they should turn up in requirements for government jobs.

Standards do not get into legislation on their own since they do not benefit a specific group. They benefit everyone, but their absence does not disadvantage anyone badly enough for the law makers to get involved.

Obviously clients should be pushing back and requiring standards, accessibility etc as part of the package when they spend millions of dollars on the latest CMS or portal... but to date they just don't. They take whatever scraps the vendors throw to them since they've already invested too heavily to back out.

So, back to WCAG. Relaxing the requirement for standards does make a kind of sense, for example allowing numbered lists to be restarted on search result pages. The start and value attributes are deprecated, but there is no reliable new way to insert that content since CSS support just doesn't cut it. I really feel this is an error - numbering is content, the content should not rely on stylesheets for its numbering. So anyway, the best thing for accessibility is to use deprecated code which will not validate. Hence WCAG allowing for this eventuality.

Is that the right approach? Well to me it would make more sense to sort out the markup standards so that they never worked against accessibility standards. I can't be the only one, since XHTML 2.0 (draft) does currently include value.

Essentially you've got to force people to do some things; sadly at this stage accessibility and standards tend to fall into that category. People would rather continue with their familiar old techniques than face any kind of learning curve. While making allowances on accessibility might be a workable idea, doing so at the expense of standards compliance really isn't going to help in the long run.