WCAG Are Guidelines!

At 6.30 am this morning I noticed a couple of interesting tweets from @webaxe:

The first (which I noticed via a  retweet) was:

Dear @googleAccess, why doesn’t the#Google home page have a proper heading structure? Not even an H1. #a11y

I responded to this tweet with the comment:

@Mr0wka18 @webaxe @googleAccess Is there any evidence that Google’s lack of structure provides #a11y problems?

My initial comment was based on the need to rely on evidence of accessibility barriers rather than a failure to implement what are supposed to be guidelines. Indeed the fact that guidelines sometimes aren’t always universally applicable is illustrated by a second tweet I noticed from @webaxe:

The summary attribute (for data tables) will soon die.http://bit.ly/hTwHtN HT @stevefaulkner #HTML5 #W3C #a11y

Looking through @webaxe’s tweet stream I noticed this tweet:

Study: #Accessibility of Social Networking Services (PDF, by discapnet) http://bit.ly/fXjgUB HT @carlosIglesias @dennisl #a11y

I was sufficiently motivated to skim through the report. It seems that social networking services tend not to do very well in conformance with technical guidelines according to automated conformance testing. However based on the experiences of people with disabilities the findings aren’t as bad. The authors state that this is “because they are accustomed to having to overcome barriers in order to navigate“. Really?  Might it not be because the guidelines themselves are flawed and not universally applicable?