WAI has been an astounding political success. It has become a monopoly accessibility brand in the United States, the European Union and many other countries; but with very few exceptions it is only nominally legal and nominally enforced.
Six years after WCAG 1.0 public sector compliance is modest and business sector compliance is nugatory. This is partly because it is in the nature of organisations facing competing pressures that they will only do what they have to, particularly for disabled people who are considered to be neither politically nor economically important.
But it is partly because the WCAG 1.0 process was largely a hard bitten negotiation with Microsoft on one side of the table and more or less everybody else on the other; the outcome was partly pragmatic and partly academic but the product was never user tested.
As with all such negotiations, the big and the small issues ended up in a pudding; but the icing was really well made and that is why the politics worked.
But for your average designer the requirements are too complex so that the very density of the text works against compliance. What designers need are some clear, broad principles, written in simple prose, which say what they must do in order to provide the degree of accessibility which will be widely accepted as the legal norm.
The whole WAI process is too cumbersome, slow, detailed, access and process, as opposed to creativity, oriented, implicitly tied to the PC and too removed from the multi media world of the excited but harassed creator.
When WCAG 2.0 is finally delivered we need a new start which:
- Is platform neutral
- Equally committed to creativity as to access/process issues
- Rapidly iterative and always provisional.
If the situation continues as it is, designers, confused but not sued, will simply turn off.