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RE: FW: [NVDA] #809: Support for longdesc in web browsers

From: John Foliot <john@foliot.ca>
Date: Thu, 8 Nov 2012 14:57:30 -0800
To: "'Silvia Pfeiffer'" <silviapfeiffer1@gmail.com>
Cc: "'HTML Accessibility Task Force'" <public-html-a11y@w3.org>, "'HTML WG'" <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <00f801cdbe04$705b9850$5112c8f0$@ca>
Hi Silvia,

Silvia Pfeiffer wrote:
> It is good to see more support for long description
> type features in screenreaders.

But let's be specific here Silvia - support for @longdesc. Not some
un-named, un-specified mechanism, but rather an existing, valid HTML4/XHTML1
attribute. If nothing it strengthens the case that if HTML5 is supposed to
be backward compatible then it is time to recognize @longdesc as a valid
attribute in the markup language.

> That actually supports the argument made in [1] that we
> need a screen-reader only long description attribute (such
> as the proposed @aria-describedat) and should mark
> @longdesc deprecated for HTML5 and obsolete when
> @aria-describedat has arrived.

I personally (and I think others) are not fans of making crystal ball
predictions on what may happen sometime in the future. 

There is no justifiable reason to make @longdesc deprecated now or into the
immediate future, as even if/when a future "better technique" emerges it
will take a number of years to see wide-spread adoption and take-up by end
users (just ask all those IE 8 users out there...). The Accessibility Task
Force are moving forward with proceeding on Chaals' Extension Specification
sc.html), and it is my understanding that once it reaches FPWD status that
this will remove the ambiguity around @longdesc's fate in HTML5.

With due respect to Mr. Mazzoni, @longdesc is NOT a feature for "web
developers", @longdesc is a feature for web consumers. I read his opinion
when you first posted it, and again just now, and I respectfully suggest
that he's missing a critical point in this debate, and is looking at this
issue strictly from a developer's perspective.

With commercial content creators (for example Pearson Publishing) and US
Federally funded initiatives (NCAM's Diagram Project -
http://ncam.wgbh.org/experience_learn/educational_media/diagram) producing
effective and valuable long text descriptions delivered via @longdesc today,
and, as evidenced by yesterday's NVDA announcement, more and more practical
support in screen reading tools, it strikes me as counter-productive to be
saying in HTML5 that we're gonna toss this baby out as soon as the new
bathwater is ready, which will be soon, but we don't know when. I would
prefer to see a much more orderly transition with some real overlap, and I
think that until we have a proposed solution (likely aria-describedat),
along with some implementation examples and experience with the new
attribute, that it is way too early to be discussing deprecation. 

I think that instead, we should be looking to encourage those browsers and
OS stacks that currently do not provide good support to @longdesc (as JF
glances towards Cupertino) to give it a second look - as NVDA did - and seek
instead to deliver a better user-experience for all users moving forward
today. Why wait? I have long argued that it is not the markup attribute that
needs work, it's the support from the user-agents. The screen readers are
(for the most part, and increasingly) doing their part, now we need the
browsers to do something useful here too.

Received on Thursday, 8 November 2012 22:58:01 UTC

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