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HTML5 should define a global attribute that contains user-friendly help or hint text

From: Greg Lowney <gcl-0039@access-research.org>
Date: Mon, 01 Aug 2011 19:50:42 -0800
Message-ID: <4E377412.8070408@access-research.org>
To: public-html-a11y@w3.org
Hi! On today's conference call I was given the action item of writing up and submitting the bug below that was based on the comment Cynthia submitted. However, this raised some issues (below) that I'd like to discuss with the group, ideally before I submit the bug.

    Title: HTML5 should define a global attribute that contains user-friendly help or hint text

    There are cases where help text or hints should be available to any user, but are not appropriate to present by default to the average user. In some cases (e.g. the pattern attribute) the spec says that the title attribute should be used for this purpose, but the Accessibility Task Force doesn't believe the title attribute should be overloaded in this way. Instead, a new global attribute called hint or helptext should be created for this purpose, or a method analogous to the label element could allow identifying content as the help or hint for a specified element.

    Issue: How would this be presented to the user? If an element has a title and helptext, do we really want users to have to have two separate mechanisms for getting access to hint and helptext, perhaps two different hotkeys and two different shortcut menu items? The more I think about this the more I suspect that there's a good reason to leave it mingled in with the content of the title attribute. On the other hand, browsers already handle title badly, and it's hard to say whether it would be worse to encourage long title text that some browsers will truncate or to have another thing like title text that they may not handle at all.

    Issue: Should this be an attribute, and thus limited to a simple text string, or might it be better to define a mechanism that allowed identifying a separate block of content as help for another element, analogous to how the details or label elements already work? That would allow rich, styled content for the help. It would certainly require new UI for displaying and hiding, but that might be no worse than if we merely define a new hint attribute.

Your thoughts?

Received on Tuesday, 2 August 2011 02:52:58 UTC

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