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Re: Response to: ChangeProposals/DeprecateLongdesc

From: John Foliot <jfoliot@stanford.edu>
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2011 13:19:16 -0700
Message-ID: <ngbaquofu6qgbuq7dfclkv5q.1314383690237@email.android.com>
To: Silvia Pfeiffer <silviapfeiffer1@gmail.com>
Cc: public-html-a11y@w3.org
Hi Silvia,

> 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. 

I think the question you are asking is essentially flawed: there is a fundemental difference between a *long* description that provides complex details about a complex "thing" (element being something of a reserved term), and a description that explains what a widget is. Aria-describedby was designed for the later, not the former. 

To use an imperfect analogy, there is a difference between a Ferrari and a Jeep, even though you could drive either to the corner store for milk. But when you start to question why you can't take the Ferrari off-roading, the answer becomes simple: it wasn't designed for that use. It's not that your Ferrari is flawed, rather it's simply not a Jeep.

> Does it deliver on what it was designed to be? 
As a tool to convey an AccessibleDescription of a widget to the various Accessibility APIs, then I believe yes it does. As Chaals has previously noted, the AAPIs don't require structured text:

     "The spec... actually requires that you remove the structure and just present the text.... I wonder if it is because the accessibility APIs are not designed to handle included markup."

> 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? 

See my imperfect analogy. Ferraris don't have knobby tires and elevated suspension, and Jeeps do not hug the road. Different needs, different solutions. (As an aside, I also personally reject that @alt is flawed, it has a job to do, and it does it.)

> Is it too late to change that?

Change what? Microsoft's UIa is now 6 years old, MSAA 13 years old (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_UI_Automation), so if re-defining what an AccessibleDescription is, and how it is processed by the AAPIs is the question, then I suspect the answer is yes, it is too late.

Taking this discussion in a slightly different direction, if we believe we need a general purpose aria attribute that *does* preserve structured markup, so that it can be used to link *long* descriptions to complex 'things' (including images) then I agree that we should pursue that, and the idea of an 'aria-describedat' has already been briefly discussed as something to look at in ARIA.next. However I think that trying to convert a Ferrari into an off-road vehicle is doomed to succeed.


John Foliot
Program Manager
Stanford Online Accessibility Program
Tel: 650-468-5785

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Received on Friday, 26 August 2011 20:19:54 UTC

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