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RE: Canvas and ARIA alternatives

From: Ian Sharpe <isforums@manx.net>
Date: Thu, 2 Aug 2012 14:11:04 +0100
To: "'Ramón Corominas'" <listas@ramoncorominas.com>
Cc: "'WAI Interest Group'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <D59521735A574B169830FD300A46736F@BLACKBOX>
Hi Ramón

While I would broadly agree that input elements should be used for the
purpose for which they are intended, I certainly am not saying that everyone
should use them in exactly the same way, with almost no room for new UI
ideas or innovation. While this miss-representation of my views may be
helpful for your argument, I find it unhelpful in terms of the debate. 

As mentioned previously, client-side scripting, AJAX and CSS developments
amongst many other things have already led to a plethora of new and
extremely diverse widgets. This introduced a significant challenge in terms
of accessibility and necessitated the development of what is now known as
ARIA. This in turn must be supported by user agents and AT which introduces
it's own set of challenges. 

Firstly, there is always the risk of different interpretations of the ARIA
spec, both by user agents and assistive technology.

Secondly there is the knock on affect of how asistive technology  handles
any differences between user agents as a result of any miss-interpretation
in, or omissions from the spec.

And thirdly , this all takes time and requires continued additional
development effort and resources to support the spec which must be justified
in an environment when for user agents at least, accessibility is not the
top priority.

All of which has meant that many people are unable to use large parts of the
web as it is. Based on this experience, this is only going to get worse if
we continue to encourage the use of inaccessible approaches  to address well
understood problems with perfectly reasonable alternative  accessible

I take your point about accessing a 3D model but see this as a different
situation, certainly from the kind of use case I am talking about anyway. It
does however raise another interesting point. That is how far should we go
in terms of accessibility, but this is perhaps a topic for a different

And again as I said, I also do have some sympathy with the view that
prohibiting the use of a particular technology in a particular scenario may
not necessarily  be helpful to our cause. But again as I said, I'm not
necessarily suggesting we do that. This was mainly intended as an example to
demonstrate my point that the W3C, through the adoption of WCAG by
governments in legislation, are perhaps less impotent in this regard than
you suggest.

What I am asking though is that in general, given our limited resources,
should we really be encouraging such behavior when perfectly reasonable
accessible alternatives exist?

If the consensus is that we should, fine, but I for one would rather we
focus on the areas which impact us on a day-to-day basis before trying to
deal with edge-case scenarios. Maybe with a little more support, diplomac,y
gentle persuasion,  and emphasis on the vision of open access and inclusion
for all, we can prevent edge-cases becoming an issue in the first place.

In particular, I am questioning the use of our limited time and resources
trying to work around issues arising from the use (abuse?) of what is
essentially a graphical element for user input when perfectly flexible
accessible alternatives exist. 


-----Original Message-----
From: Ramón Corominas [mailto:listas@ramoncorominas.com] 
Sent: 01 August 2012 21:03
To: Ian Sharpe
Cc: 'WAI Interest Group'
Subject: Re: Canvas and ARIA alternatives

Hi, Ian and all.

 > Apologies if this is obvious to others but could somebody please  >
explain to me why anyone would choose to use the canvas element  > to handle
user input over the designated input elements?
 > Have I missed something?
 > I appreciate that designers tend to have a disproportionate influence  >
over user interfaces and understandably so. And I understand that  > this in
> conjunction with advances in technology has driven the  > development of a
miriad of custom widgets which has then required  > additional support
through ARIA for accessibility purposes. But  > this just seems unnecessary
to me and is only going to lead to  > increased complexity and reduced
accessibility in my view.

You are making the assumption that "input elements" are something that
everyone should use exactly the same way, with almost no room for new UI
ideas or innovation. But many designers (and interaction designers) want to
experiment and create new user experiences, or simply want to mimic user
interfaces that already exist in other environments that cannot be achieved
through "normal" inputs.

 > I'm all for freedom to be creative up to a point but surely there's a  >
time when somebody has to push back on the basis that if such  > approaches
are to be adopted, accessibility is going to be  > significantly

Not necessarily. For example, I can imagine 3D interfaces that are not
achievable through normal HTML & CSS (I'm not saying that this is a "common"
case, but it can happen). Let's say that we want to create a F1-devoted
website with a 3D representation of a F1 car, where users can select
different parts of the car to change or view their parameters; when the user
selects a part, the camera pans and rotates to show its detail in the 3D
view (and maybe the data in a separate region of the page). As far as I
knoew, this kind of interface could only be achieved using a canvas or
similar approach. And it can be perfectly accessible, too. For example,
using WAI-ARIA we can tell the screen reader that it is a simple select or
radiogroup, and we can also provide keyboard accessibility. So, why should
the designer discard the 3D interface?

And, thinking in the future of HTML5+CSS3+JS games this situation will
happen very often, so it is better to be prepared and provide solutions and
tools for accessibility. In my opinion, we should focus our effort on
ensuring that these type of interfaces can still be made accessibile, and
not on "prohibiting" their usage. Prohibitions or restrictions only lead to
the wrong idea that accessibility is bad for design, which in turn leads to
lower interest in accessibility. If there is a conflict, designers will not
discard their creative ideas, they will discard accessibility instead.

If, in contrast, we say: "hey, of course you can do that and still be
accessible, just do it this way...", many designers will accept the
challenge and create more accessible things.

And, maybe, some of them will become our best accessibility evangelists,
trying to demonstrate their skills and showing the world the amazing things
that can be done.

Received on Thursday, 2 August 2012 13:11:53 UTC

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