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Re: Response to: ChangeProposals/DeprecateLongdesc

From: Janina Sajka <janina@rednote.net>
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2011 13:57:02 -0400
To: Silvia Pfeiffer <silviapfeiffer1@gmail.com>
Cc: John Foliot <jfoliot@stanford.edu>, public-html-a11y@w3.org
Message-ID: <20110826175702.GI8391@sonata.rednote.net>
Silvia Pfeiffer writes:
> I've long since moved on from discussing @longdesc - for me it's a
> matter now of understanding / identifying what @aria-describedby is
> actually useful for as a general means for providing long descriptions
> to elements. Does it deliver on what it was designed to be? Was the
> requirement to remove structure and just present the text a poor
> choice, reducing @aria-describedby to sharing all the problems that
> @alt has? Is it too late to change that?

John is correct. ARIA-Describedby was not designed "as a general means
for providing long descriptions."

The document from 2009 I keep pointing to should tip you off to this,
that we were looking at a hack when we discussed using it that way. Note
that the hack used aria-describedby ONLY to associate a URI somewhere
else on screen. The actual long description was to be found on the by
accessing the document at that URI, and not as the contents of the

As I think I've previously noted, this had sufficient consensus in WAI
to make it into this document. However, that consensus quickly broke
down as more and more people looked at it. To my knowledge this is the
only time aria-describedby has eevern been proposed, in any way
whatsoever, as a mechanism possibly useful to achieve a longer
description. Were we to update this document today, this suggestion
would undoubtedly be removed.

By the way, I believe our 2009 document would be generally reaffirmed,
were we to revisit and edit it today. I believe we'd likely change only
two things: 1.) remove the describedby based hack for longer
descriptions and 2.) refine our acceptance of fig-caption in some way
commensurate with the issue raised at
http://www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/show_bug.cgi?id=13651. Of course this is
my conjecture.

Bottom line here is simply this: ARIA-Describedby was NOT intended to
facilitate longer descriptions. As john has previously illustrated with
example markup, it was designed to associate text elsewhere on page with
particular elements, so that critical data could be programatically
linked. It does that quite well. Anything else is only on somebody's
wish list.


> Cheers,
> Silvia.


Janina Sajka,	Phone:	+1.443.300.2200

Chair, Open Accessibility	janina@a11y.org	
Linux Foundation		http://a11y.org

Chair, Protocols & Formats
Web Accessibility Initiative	http://www.w3.org/wai/pf
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
Received on Friday, 26 August 2011 17:57:40 UTC

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