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DIAGRAM project and image descriptions

From: Geoff Freed <geoff_freed@wgbh.org>
Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2011 14:49:18 -0500
To: "public-html@w3.org" <public-html@w3.org>, HTML Accessibility Task Force <public-html-a11y@w3.org>
Message-ID: <C98D71EE.16073%geoff_freed@wgbh.org>

Hi, everyone:

Benetech, NCAM and the DAISY Consortium are currently collaborating on a five-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Education to help find ways to make image descriptions in textbooks for print-disabled students more effective and less costly.  You can read all about the project at http://diagramcenter.org/ .

Regarding the long-running discussions over image descriptions:  any new version of HTML that lacks a mechanism for conveying long image descriptions to users will be a severe blow to blind, visually impaired and print-disabled users worldwide, as well as a huge setback to decades of work done in the accessibility industry.  In addition to the arguments already offered on these lists in favor of a long-description mechanism, bear in mind that long descriptions are typically produced after the original content has been published.  They are often likely be produced by volunteers (via a variety of methods, including  crowdsourcing) and third parties who are contracted to create sophisticated descriptions for complex images (such as those found in science and math textbooks).  This is particularly true in the case of online textbooks and digital textbooks. Without @longdesc, it will be very difficult to incorporate descriptions into new or existing textbooks or other content.

Furthermore, those hosted descriptions will be living documents which may need to be improved upon in a collaborative and moderated fashion. This is particularly true in the case of e-books- volumes which have already been downloaded by users could easily benefit from new, expanded or otherwise updated image descriptions.

If we want HTML to be a foundational standard for reading technologies, such as e-books, then it is critical that @longdesc continue to be supported.  Even if @longdesc is reinstated as an interim technology while something new is developed to replace it, it is still the best technology that the DIAGRAM project (not to mention textbook publishers, universities and others around the world) can build upon today to accomplish our objectives around improving the accessibility of images in digital textbooks.

Geoff Freed
WGBH/NCAM, on behalf of the DIAGRAM project
Received on Friday, 25 February 2011 19:50:27 UTC

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