SXSW Notes: WASP Task Force

Loose notes from SXSW 2006 session WaSP Task Force

“Whether it’s keeping Microsoft to their promised improvements to IE, educating developers about how to make DOM Scripting accessible and useful, addressing the ever-growing snake pit of accessibility issues, improving products such as Dreamweaver and Contribute, and continuing evangelical efforts for the adoption of Web standards, WaSP has been on the front lines since 1998. In this session, meet key Task Force members of WaSP, learn what it takes to solve standards issues in such a fast-paced world and offer your opinions and suggestions to the group, too.”

Moderator: Molly E Holzschlag Pres, Inc

Steven Champeon CTO, Inc
Matt May Dir of Technology, Blue Flavor
Drew McLellan Web Application Developer
Dori Smith Writer
Jennifer Taylor Macromedia
Chris Wilson Group Program Mgr, Microsoft
Kimberly Blessing KimmieCorp
Molly Holzschlag Pres, Inc

We’re finally in the position where we can for the most part develop a site once and have it work across all major browsers.

The Web Standards Project is a grassroots coalition fighting for standards which ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all.

Accessibility is not something concrete, not something you buy. There are a lot of variables and a lot of different views. WaSP is working towards a more workable solution.

It’s not about a standard — get back to the people part. Want to make it easier to produce accessible content, without having to spend a ton of energy on it.

Acid 2: A test which came from a specific vendor (Opera). Its intent was not well-translated to the developer community. The purpose was not just to test for HTML and CSS compliance, but also for things like PNG rendering. The purpose was partially political. Because it came from a specific vendor, it was somewhat in question. Nevertheless, its goal was worthwhile, and platform-independent, user-agent-independent web is desirable.

There are real winds of change: We’re seeing the MSIE people blogging, the Safari people blogging, the Mozilla people blogging AS they develop the browsers — the processes are/have become/ing transparent.

Acid3: Should be a collaboratively constructed test, or a suite of tests, depoliticized.

Dori Smith: The DOM Scripting Task Force

Note: XMLHttpRequest came from Microsoft, not from the W3C, and is responsible for all this Ajax stuff. Ajax is possible because enough browser vendors implemented it anyway.

“Unobtrusive scripting” – you can have both JavaScript and accessibility.

Graceful degradation for JavaScript, just like CSS.

Separate behaviors from page content, just like we’ve separated design from content.

DreamWeaver Task Force:

Internal debates on whether to force developers to add alt tags when inserting an image (e.g.) Customer feedback was great – not “this is annoying” but “here’s what else you can do to become more accessible.”

Macrodobia is very active in improving accessibility in all products – they have a huge responsibility here, and have stepped up to the plate nicely.

Education Task Force:

Working with higher institutions to improve accessibility. Generally a frustrating experience – typically cool response from administrators and educators. Now five people working on getting standards implemented in higher education. Encouraging instructors, encouraging students. Assist educational organizations in creating standards compliant, accessible sites. Students sometimes come back to the task force saying they’re being penalized for NOT creating table-layout-based sites — there are instructors out there actually requiring it. [Laughter and boo’ing through the room]


There’s a standards group within Microsoft. “People interpret Acid2 as a metric of how much Microsoft cares about web standards, which is not the case.” The goal of IE7 is to make developer’s lives easier, to make site maintenance easier. The biggest part of the reason why IE has been so far behind on CSS support has been because they’ve had to do so much work on security. Microsoft’s contact with WaSP has been a big part of compatibility improvements in IE7.

Question: Anyone here who has had a job put at risk for championing web standards at work? Not a single person in the room. Remember that advocating standards is advocating for the user — not just disabled users, but all users – developing to standards benefits everyone.

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