Formal Objection on HTML Issue-204 Decision

On 13 August 2012 the HTML Working Group formally decided to specify
certain ARIA behavior in the HTML 5 specification. Because ARIA is a
chartered deliverable of the PFWG and not of the HTML WG, because only
PFWG is in a position to protect the overall integrity of the ARIA
specification, because the HTML WG ignored protest from PFWG in reaching
their decision, and because we believe the HTML WG intends imminently to
rely on this decision for additional decisions potentially injurious to
accessibility and to the ARIA specification, PFWG hereby formally
objects to the HTML WG decision on both procedural and technical grounds
and requests expedited handling of our objection by the W3C Director in
order to minimize any additional damage to both Working Groups'
specifications, timelines, and deliverables.

The HTML WG decision in protest here is documented at:

In reviewing the HTML WG Issue-204 decision, the PFWG ARIA Task Force concluded
that  the HTML WG decision "redefines how aria specification is defined." The
ARIA Task Force discussion of this HTML-WG decision, including its request that
PF file a Formal Objection is documented at:

The PFWG's discussion and resolution is documented here:

The HTML WG decision on Issue 204 determined to include the following
statement specifically referencing ARIA markup behavior in Sec. 7.1
of its HTML 5 specification:

"User Agents are encouraged to expose the full semantics of hidden elements to
Assistive Technology when such elements are referenced from WAI-ARIA attributes
such as aria-describedby."

Additional context and specifics of the HTML WG decision can be found
in the change proposal which they adopted:

PFWG notes that ARIA was not designed to convey semantic content for hidden
descriptions. Rather, they expose these descriptions as text strings.  These
text strings are treated as text strings in the accessibility APIs on each OS
platform and the assistive technologies on each OS Platform are not expected to
process the text strings as though they were HTML content even when that
content is NOT hidden (See aria-describedby in the table at:

The alternative text computation algorithm for ARIA 1.0 is designed to output a
flat string. That flat string is what User Agents are required to expose
through Accessibility APIs (AAPIs) when they process ARIA 1.0 markup: See

The HTML WG is asserting a fundamental redefinition of this essential ARIA
behavior, which would cause multiple problems with assistive technology
interoperability as indicated above, and has been explained in more detail in
multiple locations including on the HTML WG Issue 204 survey.  This redesign
would also completely change a key aspect of interoperability between browsers
and assistive technologies. Such a major change in the assistive technology
field is unlikely to be feasible in the near term; and such a major change in
ARIA-describedby behavior would also break ARIA describedby implementations in
multiple already-deployed products.

The HTML WG and its Co-Chairs were informed through multiple channels that the
PFWG strongly opposes the HTML WG's attempted respecification of ARIA
describedby, including most recently in the Issue-204 survey, where PFWG's ARIA
Task Force Facilitator provided extensive technical objections to the proposed
redefinition, and the PFWG's Chair noted that "If the HTML WG wishes to
negotiate additional ARIA behavior for its HTML 5 specification, it should
propose the particulars to the PFWG."

The PFWG notes that the HTML WG has successfully worked with PF in the past to
achieve appropriate ARIA related specifications in HTML 5, most recently in the
HTML WG's Issue-199:

Yet, in this instance, PFWG's objections were completely discounted in the HTML
decision, which states:

"... there were a number of objections that apply to both proposals, and in at
least one case are made by the same individual against both proposals.  If the
people who felt this way had presented a third proposal, then these arguments
would have been considered."

The "people" referred to in this statement are the ARIA Task Force Facilitator,
and the PFWG Chair. PFWG cannot accept a process which cedes decisions on ARIA
behavior to the HTML WG by requiring PFWG to offer a suggested "third proposal"
rather than talking with us directly. ARIA is a chartered deliverable of PFWG,
not the HTML WG, and we strongly insist that other Working Group's
specifications of ARIA behavior must be mutually agreed upon with PFWG, and not
determined unilaterally by another Working Group.

The PFWG therefore requests expedited handling of this formal objection to the
above-cited HTML WG decision. We request that:

1.)     HTML WG be directed to remove the above-cited sentence immediately.

2.)     HTML WG be directed to work with PFWG to jointly agree on appropriate
language for Sec. 7.1 of the HTML 5 specification, should the HTML-WG continue
to desire a language change in that section that would specify ARIA behavior.

PFWG notes again that ARIA is a PFWG chartered deliverable, and strongly
protests another working group's unilateral attempt to define ARIA behavior.
Because we believe HTML-WG intends to base additional decisions on its
Issue-204 decision, we respectfully request our objection receive immediate
expedited handling so that any damage to W3C specifications, timelines, and
process may be kept minimal.

Janina Sajka, PFWG Chair


Janina Sajka,	Phone:	+1.443.300.2200

The Linux Foundation
Chair, Open Accessibility:

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
Chair,	Protocols & Formats
	Indie UI

Received on Thursday, 23 August 2012 16:52:37 UTC