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Re: longdesc (was Re: use of aria-hidden to provide a text description not visible on the page.)

From: Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis <bhawkeslewis@googlemail.com>
Date: Wed, 15 Sep 2010 08:54:14 +0100
Cc: W3C WAI-XTECH <wai-xtech@w3.org>, HTML Accessibility Task Force <public-html-a11y@w3.org>
Message-Id: <3F6978EF-42B7-4A8A-A019-79603D0E19F5@googlemail.com>
To: Laura Carlson <laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com>
On 14 Sep 2010, at 21:56, Laura Carlson wrote:
> Banishing an existing solution while not providing a better solution,
> it not a solution.
> 
> The existing solution should have been improved (we
> had bugs on how to do that [1] [2] [3] [4]), or the existing solution
> should be gracefully replaced with a better solution.

I think the WG rejected not so much the solution as the problem, the use case that distinguishes "longdesc" from "aria-describedby". To quote the decision:

"It was stated that without this attribute, there is no current way to reference a longer description of an images without including the content in the main flow of a page. It was further stated that user agents could very well open this content in a new window. While the former is uncontested, no evidence was provided that this is a necessary or even desirable characteristic; in fact arguments were presented by others to the contrary. As to the latter, this was expressed in a hypothetical manner, and therefore was not given much weight."

If the WG is to provide a solution, they must be persuaded there is a problem.

> The Chairs' Decision [5] states that:
> 
> QUOTE
> 
> This issue can be reopened if new information comes up. Examples of
> possible relevant new information include:
> 
> * use cases that specifically require longdesc,
> * evidence that correct usage is growing rapidly and that that growth
> is expected to continue, or
> * widespread interoperable implementation.
> 
> UNQUOTE
> 
> I have been researching and amassing use cases of Longdesc in the Wild.
> http://www.d.umn.edu/~lcarlson/research/ld.html

Those look like examples of usage rather than new, or more persuasively argued, use cases.

The WG expressed in an interest in usage trends. Does the data you've collected indicate increasing correct use over time?

> Is this information grounds to reopen the issue

Doesn't look like it to me, but best ask the HTML WG Chairs. 

> or the basis for a formal objection?

"An individual who registers a Formal Objection should cite technical arguments and propose changes that would remove the Formal Objection; these proposals may be vague or incomplete. Formal Objections that do not provide substantive arguments or rationale are unlikely to receive serious consideration by the Director."

http://www.w3.org/2005/10/Process-20051014/policies#WGArchiveMinorityViews

I'm no expert on W3C process, but this suggests that there's no formal criteria for "the basis for a formal objection".

Other than Formal Objections, I think there are some possible avenues to getting "longdesc"-as-hidden-link back in to the spec:

   1) Design work on how to present interfaces to "longdesc" that afford *easy* discoverability to all users using any AT or none. (I'm not yet persuaded that adding a context menu item does this.)

   2) Work on implementations: add "longdesc" support to NVDA and Orca, include "longdesc" UIs to Firefox, Konqueror, and Epiphany, build "longdesc" extensions for Chrome and Safari, develop authoring tool add-ons.

   3) Have users who want access to or authors who want to use "longdesc" request native implementation in Chrome and Safari from Google and Apple.

   4) Get popular websites to start using it (correctly). For example, by fixing Wikipedia's misuse of "longdesc".
   
   5) Get authors from outside the accessibility community to support the hidden link use case (e.g. the Super Friends). 

   6) Work on checking tools that can check "longdesc" for common problems (e.g. broken links) and present "longdesc" text alongside the images to check it's appropriate.

   7) Keep using it (right).

Putting "longdesc" in the spec is fairly pointless if, as with HTML4, popular websites don't use or use it incorrectly and popular user agents don't implement it. So the best bet is to put the cart before the horse and do the design and implementation work up front.

--
Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis
Received on Wednesday, 15 September 2010 07:54:50 UTC

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