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Re: Drop longdesc, get aria-describedat?

From: Laura Carlson <laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2012 12:06:52 -0600
Message-ID: <CAOavpveB+OdeXygCXn6vvV2T34gDSUypSxJRbs4kL5QMD5Vp+g@mail.gmail.com>
To: Steve Faulkner <faulkner.steve@gmail.com>
Cc: W3C WAI-XTECH <wai-xtech@w3.org>, HTML Accessibility Task Force <public-html-a11y@w3.org>, "Michael(tm) Smith" <mike@w3.org>, Janina Sajka <janina@rednote.net>, Judy Brewer <jbrewer@w3.org>
Hi Steve,

> "My druthers would be to accept longdesc right away and call it obsolete
> but conforming. That clearly signals that a replacement is expected
> while providing needed functionality right away--the same it has been
> available since html 4. As I said, this is my
> preference. Others may have other views."
> I  find that to be an acceptable compromise.

First, two references:

1. Regarding conforming but with a warning the HTML Chairs' Decision
on ISSUE-30, stated:
"The weakest proposal was the one that makes longdesc conforming but
with a warning...there was a strong argument which is unique to this
proposal: if longdesc is conforming, user agents will be required to
support it; if there is a validator warning, users will be discouraged
from using it. This combination is the worst of all possibilities.
Eliminating this proposal early made the process of coming to a
resolution simpler." [1]

2. Obsolete but conforming features trigger HTML5 warnings with advice
to use a specific and different solution. [2]

Now, why obsolete but conforming is unacceptable to me:

A warning for a proper longdesc is simply wrong. People should not be
reprimanded for doing the right thing. On the contrary, they should be

It has been substantially evidenced via the documentation of over
fourteen hundred real world examples of longdesc that authors do
indeed use this attribute in practice to improve accessibility. This
is a non-negligible number of examples that utilize longdesc in
meaningful ways. All of the images in those examples would be
significantly less accessible (some even totally inaccessible) without

Breaking both compatibility with existing best practice (and
documentation of the same), as well as requiring a wide range of
tools, content, and authoring guidance to be updated in order to
achieve compatibility with a replacement for longdesc - for something
meant to solve the SAME problem, is an intolerable cost. It would be
an illogical undue burden and unacceptable to authors and
organizations that have already made investments in the use of

Longdesc solves problems and makes things better. Other proposed
solutions do not meet requirements and do not have an existing
critical support base of tools and educational materials.

Longdesc strengthens the language. Other techniques are either
nonexistent, retrograde, or makeshift substitutes that do not directly
provide the valuable semantics and critical backwards compatibility
that longdesc does. No better technical solution exists.

People with disabilities would be the losers if longdesc were made
obsolete but conforming. It would be an unnecessary atrocity on
authors and users with disabilities.

Best Regards,

[2] http://www.w3.org/TR/html5/obsolete.html#obsolete-but-conforming-features

Laura L. Carlson
Received on Thursday, 8 March 2012 18:07:26 UTC

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