W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html-a11y@w3.org > October 2014

RE: clarification sought on publishing alt text document as a WG note

From: John Foliot <john@foliot.ca>
Date: Tue, 14 Oct 2014 17:12:36 -0700
To: "'Sam Ruby'" <rubys@intertwingly.net>, "'Liam R E Quin'" <liam@w3.org>
Cc: <public-html-a11y@w3.org>
Message-id: <001601cfe80c$c5993f00$50cbbd00$@ca>
Sam Ruby wrote:
> Second a comment on social dynamics.  Longdesc has proven to be a very
> contentious issue.  Should the Director's decision be to overrule
> Apple's objection, I will suggest that it would be rather bad form to
> immediately seize on the opportunity to push for marking longdesc as a
> best practice.

Sam, I think it worth noting that using @longdesc is *ALREADY* a published
W3C Success Criteria Technique for WCAG 2
(http://www.w3.org/TR/2014/NOTE-WCAG20-TECHS-20140916/H45), and has been
since December of 2008 (http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/) - prior to that it was
also a success technique for WCAG 1, since November 2000

The attribute itself is a valid HTML 4/XHTML 1 attribute, and thanks to
user-agent backwards compatibility, a large (and increasing) number of
user-agents and assistive technology already provide viable, if not perfect,
support today. Frankly, the only thing really missing today is that using
@longdesc in an "HTML5" document will fail the validator - the technique
(one of many I might add - nobody is holding a gun to anyone's head and say
you (RFC 2119) MUST use @longdesc) will still work were it works today,
whether or not it passes or fails the validator.

The genesis of the current document under discussion goes back to a time
when the a11yTF were concerned about the poor, and often incorrect guidance
that was in the HTML5 specification at the time. The text that is currently
in the HTML5 PR document today however, text that is taken directly from
http://www.w3.org/TR/html-alt-techniques/* currently says nothing about
@longdesc (although that *may* need to change after a decision from the

(* per Steve Faulkner: "The current HTML5: Techniques for providing useful
text alternatives WD http://www.w3.org/TR/html-alt-techniques/ is 2 years
old and is largely obsolete." -

However, the current document in question
(http://w3c.github.io/alt-techniques/), the one that is now being discussed
as being published as a heart-beat document, is different from what is in
the HTML5 reference, and AFAIK, is destined to be a W3C Note co-published by
the HTML WG and PFWG.

Do I hope that the note will supersede the "largely obsolete" content in the
HTML5 Recommendation? Yes.

Do I also believe that work effort from the HTML WG, PFWG, and the Joint
Task-Force on accessibility should work together to also support existing
W3C Recommendations (and ISO Standards -
ber=58625)? Yes.

Should the Director overturn Apple's objection, I will suggest that dragging
our feet in reinstating guidance we've already published elsewhere (multiple
times) into our current work-efforts would also be bad form - what kind of
social dynamics message would be sent by a prolonged period of "limbo" after
the decision?

> While that may end up being the ultimate result,
> pushing too hard and too fast may end up increasing the divide rather
> than healing it.

Clearly, no matter the decision from the Director, one group will be upset.
However, just like taking off bandages, we can try and ease it off slowly,
and have prolonged pain, or we can rip it off quickly, experience the
short-term pain, and then move on.

Since the majority of the TF currently seem to favor a "Living
Specification" approach to our documentation, I will suggest that once the
decision is made, reasonable effort be made to update this Living
Specification with the current W3C status quickly - in other words, let's
just get on with it. (And yes, I do realize that I personally may be on the
"upset" side of the decision when it is communicated - I still stand by my
position of a timely update no matter what the outcome.)

Received on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 00:13:48 UTC

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