Re: aria-describedat

Hi George,

We are in the process of making SVG more accessible by creating much richer
semantics that would enable an author to give the user access parts of the
actual drawing through additional semantics and through keyboard navigation
capability. This will be much more accessible to blind user providing
authors are willing to create such drawings.

The Details view is a a way for authors to easily show a popup help for end
users about an object. The details object does not, however, pull in an
external URL to populate the details. This would need to be done either at
the server or the client. However, I suspect the problem for authors is
that these books are not generated dynamically today so you require some
sort of link to external help information if indeed it is significant in
size. The other issue is that IE has yet to implement the details element.
This is a massive problem for US Federal and state governments. From what I
can tell, Microsoft has no plans to update IE11 and Edge has yet to
implement <details>.

It appears that the best solution would be one where:

   Details would support a source URL for content so that publishers could
   create reusable descriptions. This could be engineered in browsers so
   that the user's context could be moved appropriately.
   Greater use of SVG in digital books. However, legacy SVG accessibility
   does not work in IE today.

So, it appears the issues facing publishers are:

- SVG accessibility is not supported in IE or Edge.
- Details is not supported in IE or Edge.
- Annotations are also a solution but they are a ways off. We pushed off
accessible annotations to ARIA 2.0 for logistical reasons.
- You need a vehicle to access reusable descriptions
- You need a solution that will not take years to support in browsers as
you have the attention of publishers wrt. accessibility

So, going forward I am trying to assess the best avenues to address your
problem. So, I have some questions:

- What is the likelihood that publishers would support accessible SVG
drawings? This is also an authoring tool discussion and it would require a
greater level of understanding of accessibility.
- If the details element were supported in all browsers and it could take a
src attribute for content would this be a workable solution?
- Can the publishing community accept working with Edge vs. IE? As far as I
know no work is being done to make IE accessible.
- Can publishers accept polyfills for IE, regardless of the solution?
- What is the actual commitment, by publishers, to support the description
repository of the Diagram project?

It seems like aria-describedat is a stop gap to what you really want and
the problem is really comprehensive cross-browser support for other
features that if implemented might be a better solution.

Rich Schwerdtfeger

From: James Craig <>
To: George Kerscher <>
Cc: Richard Schwerdtfeger/Austin/IBM@IBMUS, Janina Sajka
            <>, PF <>, SVG WG
            <>, W3C PF - DPUB Joint Task Force
            <>, Michael Cooper <>, Judy
            Brewer <>, Markus Gylling
            <>,, HTMLWG WG
            <>, "Ted O'Connor" <>,
            "David (Standards) Singer" <>, Leonie Watson
            <>, Steve Faulkner
Date: 08/06/2015 04:13 AM
Subject: Re: aria-describedat

Thanks for taking the time to write this up, George.

I apologize that I do not have sufficient time for in-depth point-by-point
rebuttals, and it is unlikely that I'll be able to attend the ARIA call
next week due to a standing conflict. In lieu of my attendance, I would
like to point out a few things the DPUB and WAI groups should consider.

1. Longdesc received formal objections from Apple and Mozilla, the
developers of the most accessible browsers on most major platforms, and
neither vendor took the decision to object lightly. Regardless of TBL's
final decision to release longdesc, the points made in Ted O'Connor's
#longobjection™ are still relevant to both @longdesc and @aria-describedat.

    Formal Objection to advancing the HTML Image Description document

2. In additional to the technical objections, the @longdesc and
@aria-describedat attributes rely on a "separate but equal" design
philosophy that we in the WebKit and Apple Accessibility Engineering teams
consider to be Harmful for Accessibility. The specific points have been
made ad infinitum, so I won't mention them again in this thread.

3. I personally believe all of your points and examples below are
sufficiently addressed by one or more of the following approaches.

   - Figure with details element:

   - Accessible vector graphics in SVG:
   - Raster graphics in an SVG Wrapper: (no example available)
   - Standard linking (<a href>)

I hope you'll come to the conclusion that @aria-describedat is unnecessary
(even harmful), but can agree to disagree if we are at an impasse.

James Craig

PS. No response is necessary. Good luck with your work and the conference
call next week.

      On Jul 13, 2015, at 7:14 AM, George Kerscher <>

      Dear Rich and PF WG

      Copying the DPub working group.

      Below is the reply from the DPub working group you requested. We also
      have three attached images for illustration.

      We look forward to a time in August where we could gather on a call.

      George on behalf of the DPub Accessibility WG.

      Begin message:

      The Digital Publishing Interest Group asserts that the describedat
      ARIA property  genuine utility to the publishing industry. The myriad
      advantages of the attribute to the industry include:

      1. Showing the user an extended enhancement without losing current

Both the <details> element and <svg> alternatives provide this

   - Figure with details element:

   - Accessible vector graphics in SVG:

   - Raster graphics in an SVG Wrapper: (no example available)

      ·         Not offered by linking in HTML in a standard way.
      ·         Context is necessary for accessibility. This is especially
      important for anybody using a screen reader, or for any user with
      cognitive impairments. However, since both magnification use and
      mouse-less keyboard-less browsing can increase the difficulty of
      navigating, providing easy links to context can be very important.
      ·         Publishing use case: An article in Example Magazine
      contains multiple complex infographics that need to be described with
      watermarks/breadcrumbs guaranteeing the reader will always return to
      the current context.

      2. Offering 3D printer models as enhanced alternatives to
      viewing/printing for complex objects, such as a rotating
      visualization or a relief map.

Both the <details> element and <svg> alternatives provide this

   - Figure with details element:

   - Accessible vector graphics in SVG:

   - Raster graphics in an SVG Wrapper: (no example available)

      ·         Not offered by describedby, alt, longdesc. linking in HTML
      can't wrap complex dynamic objects, or objects which are already
      ·         3D printing models of 3D visualizations will be a game
      changer for blind/VI users of digital publications.
      ·         Publishing use case: An art history textbook with 3D
      printing instructions for Bernini’s David

      3. Providing structured markup in an extended enhancement.

Both the <details> element and <svg> alternatives provide this

   - Figure with details element:

   - Accessible vector graphics in SVG:

   - Raster graphics in an SVG Wrapper: (no example available)

      ·         Not offered by describedby or alt.
      ·         Structured markup is vital for accessibility. A screen
      reader user who does not have access to structure cannot navigate to
      the items in the list, cannot navigate via heading, and cannot have a
      screen reader voice appropriately change language according to
      language tag markup. Without structured markup a screen reader user
      cannot easily skim or skip around the sections of a lengthy
      ·         Publishing use case: a linguistics textbook with complex
      data visualizations needing rich description, including bulleted
      lists and marked up multi-language sections. (See attached images for

      4. Providing an extended enhancement to any element, even one thatis
      already a link

I'm not certain why you'd need a long desc for a link, but both <details>
and <svg> can be used generally. They do not need to be associated with

      ·         Not offered in all cases with alt, longdesc, linking in
      ·         Extended enhancements need to be available for all page
      items for accessibility. Many images or complex visualizations on the
      web are already links as part of site design. Those need to be
      available to blind/VI users just as much as unlinked images.
      ·         Publishing use case: a historical map in a political
      science reference manual, with Baltic States clearly marked on the
      historical image links to a higher-definition map.

      5. Providing an extended enhancement to any element, including a
      dynamic one.

Both the <details> element and vector-based <svg> alternative provide this

   - Figure with details element:

   - Accessible vector graphics in SVG:

      ·         Not offered in all cases with alt, longdesc, linking in
      ·         Extended enhancements need to be available for all items
      for accessibility. Many images or complex visualizations on the web
      are rich dynamic applications which cannot be made into links. Those
      need to be available to blind/VI users just as much as simple images.
      ·         Publishing use case: a required reading quiz at a chapter
      end with a manipulatable, dynamic timelapse overlay.

      6. Offering a large number of very lengthy enhancements in a single
      page without bloating the size and complexity of the source page

Standard linking and server-side content negotiation provide this

That said, I am skeptical that your long descriptions would result in
significantly measurable size increase for a web page.

"Complexity" is a more subjective term so you could have a valid point
depending on the specific image examples and development stack, but please
consider this. The goal of simplifying authoring complexity should never
yield a result that provides a substandard experience to the end user.

      ·         Not offered by describedby, alt.
      ·         There are myriad reasons why this is an accessibility use
      case. First of all, accessibility has to become something publishers
      are willing to add to their digital publications. If adding many
      extended enhancements bloats the page such that it has a slow load
      time for the users who will not access the extended enhancements,
      publishers are less likely to add the enriched material. Moreover,
      slow load time can increase reading difficulties for users with
      cognitive  impairments, as well as for users with visual impairments,
      who are not necessarily informed of what is happening during page
      ·         Publishing use case: a picture book displaying a complex
      four-part story, in which details from one story interact with
      details from another.
      ·         Publishing use case: a biology textbook chapter with a very
      large number of cell images, each of which needs to be described with
      description of the cell components

      7. Providing access to extended enhancements in ways that don't
      conflict with visual design.
      ·         Not offered by linking in HTML.

I reject this hypothesis. Links can be styled to disappear completely
and/or display only when focused. As such, they provide all the
functionality of longdesc and describedat, but perform better in more
browsers and with more assistive technology.

In addition, both the <details> element and <svg> alternatives provide this
functionality and can be styled such that the design is not impacted.

   - Figure with details element:

   - Accessible vector graphics in SVG:

   - Raster graphics in an SVG Wrapper: (no example available)

      ·         Although visual designers and layout designers need to
      follow accessibility standards, ultimately visual design is often
      decided in such a way that negotiation is impossible, sometimes
      contractually and sometimes aesthetically. Putting a hyperlink after
      the item with the anchor text "enhanced explanation of table 1.1"
      relies on the ability to modify layout and visual representation.
      Exposing the enhancements via user agent functionality or adaptive
      technology doesn't have an influence on the visual design.
      ·         Publishing use case: a publisher receives the contract for
      creating an ebook of the original draft of Samuel Beckett's Waiting
      for Godot. The terms of Samuel Beckett's will specify that no words
      be visible on the page which were not written by Beckett himself, and
      the visual layout be as close to his original draft as is possible.

      8. Reusable, updateable and programmatically referenceable extended

Both the <details> element and <svg> alternatives provide this

   - Figure with details element:

   - Accessible vector graphics in SVG:

   - Raster graphics in an SVG Wrapper: (no example available)

      ·         Not offered by describedby, alt
      ·         Publishers are most likely to rapidly implement
      accessibility practices that have a sustainable workflow.
      ·         Publishing use case: an online test manufacturer uses the
      same complex table in a whole series of online tests;  in the three
      different e-books they publish about practicing for the tests; and in
      the answer key provided to test scorers. They write a single extended
      enhancement and store it in a database along with the ID of the
      table. When the test is released, the describedat attribute is added
      referencing a link to the extended enhancement, which is made
      available online. After the tests have been released and pushed to
      test centers, the test manufacturer discovers an error in the complex
      table description. They update a single description.
      Sample Markup for  a subset of these use cases included at end.
      We acknowledge that concern has been raised over the inability to
      access online resources in an offline source document. However, we
      believe that concern is being adequately addressed by ongoing efforts
      in the Digital Publishing space to collapse the currently-sharp
      distinction between online and offline resources. EPUB+WEB <> is the primary umbrella project
      collecting all the avenues of research in this space.
      Annotations may address some of these use case, but it is not yet a
      Recommendation, and accessibility needs to be further addressed in
      the Draft.
      The DPUB IG has open and active channels of communication with the
      BISG accessibility team, and is confident that the publishing
      industry is passionate about accessibility at this moment, and is
      very willing to attempt to implement standards formalized by the W3C
      and implemented in user agents. The use cases above are problems the
      publishing industry must solve in the near future, and it is looking
      to the W3C for help formulating solutions. In the last several
      months, there has been a whirlwind of activity around accessibility
      in the publishing community. Every industry organization (more than
      30) has a task force dedicated to accessibility, to the point that
      several of us are working to consolidate efforts. This query comes at
      a time of heightened awareness in the publishing world, as several
      key actors are poised to act. Publishers are embracing the full suite
      of accessibility best practices, and describedat is a powerful tool.
      We will evangelize this as the best option, and they have shown they
      are poised to listen.
      Sample Markup:
      Example for Use Case 2.
      <img src=""
      alt="Relief map of the United States"
      Example for Use Case 5.
      On a Google maps time lapse view used in a dynamic textbook, eg:,-71.089829,3a,75y,213h,90t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s46xSQNv8yySyc1t9rJBaig!2e0!5s20121001T000000!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1?hl=en

      <div jstcache="517" class="widget-timemachine-dropdown-container"
      aria-describedat="TimeMachineTextualEnhancement.html"> ... </div>
      Example for Use Case 6. Also works as an example for Use Case 3.
      File 1: black-and-white.html
      <img src="

      alt="David Macauley's Black and White, pages 5-6"
      File 2: bw56.html
      <h1>David Macauley's Black and White, pages 5-6</h1>
      <!-- TOC here -->
      <h2>Story 1: Seeing Things</h2>
      <h3>Art Style</h3>
      <h3>Art Style</h3>
      <h3>Image description</h3>
      <!-- repeat for stories 2-4 -->
      <h2>Inter-story Interaction</h2>
      <!-- Describe the interaction between stories 2 and 4 as shown in the
      image -->

      From: Richard Schwerdtfeger []
      Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 6:54 AM
      To: George Kerscher;
      Cc: PF; SVG WG;;;; Markus Gylling
      Subject: aria-describedat

      George, Janina,

      As you know, we put aria-describedat in the ARIA 1.1 spec., however
      the caviat for it staying was that we see adequate support from a
      number of key publishers that they would commit to using it if we
      actually kept it in the specification. This was months ago. Janina
      had promised me that after I came back from vacation that we would
      see something either way from publishers. I have been back two weeks
      now and there has been no movement.

      At this point I am trying to lock down the ARIA 1.1 specification so
      that we can work on ARIA 2.0 which will address critical features
      such as extensibility and greater support for web applications. Also,
      the group has additional modules in development for digital
      publishing and graphics that are coming in parallel that are taxing
      people's time.

      So, allowing for possible mis-communications between PF and the
      publishers I am going to give to mid-August to see a strong response
      from publishers. If we do not see it I am going to propose that
      aria-describedat be removed from the ARIA 1.1 specification.


      Rich Schwerdtfeger

Received on Monday, 10 August 2015 13:36:35 UTC