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Re: Opening thoughts on WAI-ARIA in HTML5

From: Joshue O Connor <joshue.oconnor@cfit.ie>
Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2007 22:31:17 +0100
Message-ID: <469FD825.80007@cfit.ie>
To: Al Gilman <Alfred.S.Gilman@IEEE.org>
Cc: public-html@w3.org

Al Gilman wrote:
> To summarize, our goals for HTML 5 are as follow:
>
> + Support for issues highlighted in Table: 1 of the ARIA Roadmap
> http://www.w3.org/TR/aria-roadmap/#html_support
> + Backward compatability to ARIA, including the role attribute.
> + Allow for full interoperability with assistive technologies
> + A preference for access to accessibility information via the DOM
> + Reduced efforts by authors to support assistive technologies
> + Support for the access element or a version of it.
> + Maintain equivalent or improved accessibility features of HTML 4.01

I am all for these points and I feel - in principle - that they
represent a coherent and cohesive approach to the development of  HTML 5
as well as new - hopefully - future proof accessibility features and
much needed support for older already established accessibility
authoring methods and modalities.  I am however a little unsure of the
language used - in particular - for the last point.

>> + Maintain equivalent or improved accessibility features of HTML 4.01

Does this mean that HTML 5 _will_ continue to support @summary,
@longdesc as well as headers/id? In reality, these are accessibility
features that _do_ work - they may not be ideal but they do fly. Will
they still be supported by HTML 5 as worthy legacy attributes or are
they to be in all likelihood finally deleted? IMO it would be wise to
support them but maybe not necessarily to _recommend_ them (if there are
true advances in the specifications that are genuine improvements). At
the very least this support could act as a device to help authors who
understand how to implement these attributes successfully while they
make the transition to new authoring methods - so in that context it
would be wise to continue to provide support for them.

If they are supported - and the spec also supports 'Backward
compatibility to ARIA, including the role attribute' then that is one
powerful spec - when combined with improved, easy to author, vendor
supported, accessibility features. The spec will then both look forward
and back. Maybe we should call this the Janus project?

A couple of final thoughts:

>> + Allow for full interoperability with assistive technologies

This will obviously have to encompass legacy user agents also, see above.

>> + A preference for access to accessibility information via the DOM

While this in not a HTML WG issue it is still relevant: This would be
ideal - in particular for dynamic content - and it is stated here as a
preference. Many screen readers continue to use the Off Screen Model
(OSM). Is it foreseen that most future iterations of screen readers will
interrogate the DOM directly and not use the OSM? This is probably
likely. AFAIK Dolphins' Supernova is the only screen reader that
currently does this. Has the WG contacted any vendors like GW Micro and
Freedom Scientific etc to see that they support this shift towards
access to accessibility information via the DOM by changing the way
their products work?

Josh
Received on Thursday, 19 July 2007 21:32:04 GMT

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