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Re: example spec text for longdesc

From: Laura Carlson <laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com>
Date: Sat, 26 Mar 2011 07:01:17 -0500
Message-ID: <AANLkTik5Yh6BcHqkW8LybGnhSgS=wKO4+NWURDAgKYrA@mail.gmail.com>
To: Jonas Sicking <jonas@sicking.cc>
Cc: Henri Sivonen <hsivonen@iki.fi>, HTMLWG WG <public-html@w3.org>
Hi Jonas,

> I mean that all the discussions revolve around adding long
> descriptions to images, rather than long descriptions on things that
> require long descriptions.

That is probably because longdesc was originally specified mainly to
be an attribute for images. But maybe that could be expanded.

>> Would it be possible to make longdesc a global attribute? What would
>> be the pros and cons?
> This is software, anything is possible. If it's a good idea is a
> separate question ;-)

That is what I was asking about. The pros and cons of adding longdesc
to other elements.

>>> Also, ease of use seems to be missing from that page. This isn't
>>> really a use case but rather a requirement.
>> Longdesc is a link so it is simple in that regard. Ease of use and
>> simplicity are pretty evident in the formal use case scenarios. For
>> instance:
>> http://www.d.umn.edu/~lcarlson/research/ld.html#us-01
>> http://www.d.umn.edu/~lcarlson/research/ld.html#us-02
>> http://www.d.umn.edu/~lcarlson/research/ld.html#us-07
>> http://www.d.umn.edu/~lcarlson/research/ld.html#us-08
> And yet data shows that the vast majority of people get it wrong.

People getting it wrong is what we have been trying our best to fix
with new spec language.

> http://wiki.whatwg.org/wiki/Longdesc_usage
> http://blog.whatwg.org/the-longdesc-lottery
> Do you have data showing otherwise?

That data was in fact the catalyst in the current effort to improve longdesc.

> A terrifyingly small percentage of the pages on the web pass a
> validator. The far vast majority of pages doesn't even nest their tags
> correctly. The sad truth is that while we can do what you suggest,
> it's not going to have a big effect because people simply doesn't
> consult validators to a large degree.

It has been quite wisely stated that the "W3C HTML4 validator has done
worlds more than the HTML4 specification for increasing the quality of
HTML documents on the web".

So why not use validators as a tool to improve longdesc? They create a
teachable moment.

> So far I have seen no reason to believe that longdesc is going to be
> used in a much better way the next 10 years than it has the past 10
> years. If that's the case then we really aren't helping anyone.

Would improved spec language help? Better implementations?

> I'd like to actually make the web better.

I think everyone here wants that exact same thing, Jonas. We are all
together in this together.

> Indeed. I'm not saying that the use case doesn't exist. I'm saying
> that it's not the majority case. We should optimize for the majority
> case while making the minority case possible.

Yes. Numbers alone shouldn't not be the driving factor for technology
decisions. Both mainstream (80/20) and edge-case requirements should
be addressed, because for online information, there is:

1. No standardized user, and
2. No standardized device (browser or other user agent) for accessing

> First off I'm not proposing aria-describedat. I'm suggesting fixing a
> problem in aria-describedby.
> Second, I don't see anything in that link that says that
> aria-describedat wouldn't work

It seems that changing aria-describedby or adding aria-describedat
would reinvent the wheel. longdesc provides the same needed
functionality today.

Wouldn't adding longdesc functionality to aria-describedby or a new
aria-describedat create the exact same set of needed improvements as
longdesc has only under a different name?

The thing with changing or adding new attributes is that they are not
backwards compatible. Unlike longdesc they are not recognized by
existing authoring tools, user agents, assistive technologies,
educational material, etc. longdesc has a critical support base that
has taken a decade to build and would probably take another to rebuild
with something else. Something new would setback progress.

Longdesc is a viable choice that is supported by the majority of
screen reading software, and when used properly, it provides a needed
and useful solution to real problems. It has a quite a few things
going for it:

Jonas, will you please think about how to best to improve longdesc? If
longdesc is to be reinstated into HTML would you suggest anything
being revised in this spec text?
Your insight, input, and expertise is greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much.

Best Regards,

Laura L. Carlson
Received on Saturday, 26 March 2011 12:01:50 UTC

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