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Re: Notice of impending Formal Objection to Issue 30 Decision (@longdesc)

From: Charles McCathieNevile <chaals@opera.com>
Date: Fri, 13 Aug 2010 06:15:13 +0800
To: "HTML Accessibility Task Force" <public-html-a11y@w3.org>, "David Singer" <singer@apple.com>
Message-ID: <op.vhcirn1zwxe0ny@widsith.local>
Hi all,

On Fri, 13 Aug 2010 01:22:41 +0800, David Singer <singer@apple.com> wrote:

> On Aug 12, 2010, at 10:10 , Sam Ruby wrote:
>> In the short term, a better use of those energies would be towards  
>> identifying new information (I hear that there is some from Oracle?) or  
>> on a Formal Objection.

Yes. I intend to do just this. Re-reading the change proposal I made, the  
objections, and the decision seem to be the first steps. Asserting that  
people are block-headed, ill-willed, or otherwise prejudiced are things I  
don't have time to do, and don't seem to justify the effort anyway.

It appears to me on a preliminary reading that I didn't sufficiently  
explain the motivation for my change proposal, that certain facts about  
implementation seem not to be clear, and that I made an insufficient  
effort to demonstrate the usage that there is. Naturally, if I maintain  
this conclusion after studying carefully, I will address those issues.

> I have to wonder whether our energies would not be better spent, not in  
> attempting to maintain the historical status of longdesc, but in  
> providing mechanisms that actually materially improve accessibility for  
> those that need it (given that we all seem to recognize that longdesc  
> has almost no useful adoption and use)?

I think there is agreement that longdesc has low adoption/use, and further  
agreement that a large part of that use is incorrect. I strongly doubt we  
agree on what that means. It isn't the most important thing in  
accessibility, any more than the date/time pieces of HTML5 are the most  
important thing in HTML5. But you are right that getting a good solution  
to the problem it sets out to solve actually matters.

For example, it seems that the use case "Allow for a substantial  
description of an image to be optionally available" is not met by  
proposals such as the use of the object or figure/figcaption elements.  
Likewise the use case "Allow image descriptions to be maintained out of  
the page the image is used, and more easily shared" is not met by the  
proposal to use aria-describedBy (which at least allows the optionality).  
It may be the case that a future version of ARIA can change this. However,  
this boils down to having exactly the same attribute, with a new name,  
available on more elements, in some unspecified future when ARIA 2 is  

I haven't seen any other proposal that can do what longdesc can already  
do. The cost of implementation (developing tests, specifying the task,  
getting it prioritised, getting it implemented, all involving different  
people in a company where everyone gets paid) was lower than the cost of  
following this discussion. And for better or worse, there is a long legacy  
of talking about the attribute.

My basic rationale boils down to: longdesc simply solves some real problem  
that sometimes arise, and if it is not ideal, it appears that despite  
vociferous denunciation nobody has a better solution, so let's not throw  
it out just yet.

I'll probably take a couple of weeks to get back to this topic. In the  
meantime I expect to talk to Mike Smith™, and presumably others.



Charles McCathieNevile  Opera Software, Standards Group
     je parle français -- hablo español -- jeg lærer norsk
http://my.opera.com/chaals       Try Opera: http://www.opera.com
Received on Thursday, 12 August 2010 22:15:52 UTC

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