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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 22:35:17 -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: <011201cdbe44$64b50190$2e1f04b0$@ca>
Silvia Pfeiffer wrote:
> The discussion about adding the feature to HTML5 will need
> to be had around the extension spec so I don't want to go
> into this.


> That last argument is the one that browsers don't buy into:
> screen reader support for this feature makes a lot of sense.
> But browser support less so, because if the author wants users
> to be aware of a document that has a long description, they will
> author that into the visible part of their Web page. If they
> don't they won't author it in. So why should browsers overrule
> a Web developer's intention? It goes against what browsers do
> and it seems to me that spending more time on pushing such
> functionality is futile. Let's solve the real problem which is
> accessibility.

Hi Silvia,

I will politely (but firmly) point out that accessibility != screen readers
alone, and yet this continually seems to be a point of misunderstanding in
the larger development community. Longer textual descriptions can be of
benefit to numerous other users beyond those who cannot see a complex
graphic image, including low-vision users (who may prefer a text description
over scrolling up and down as well as left and right to try and make sense
of a large graphic), users with cognitive disabilities (users with
learning/comprehension issues), and when done right can also be useful for
SEO considerations. As long as engineers continue to directly link longer
textual descriptions to blind users alone, they are missing a significant
aspect of the larger accessibility picture. I believe it is incumbent on the
members of this Working Group to both understand (or at least try) and
promote this idea, not continue to fight against it.

You also make the claim that web developers will assume that these
descriptions are for non-sighted users only, and while that may be the case
for many private developers, there are a whole raft of other developers who
will be providing these descriptions knowing and perhaps even wanting that
they be available to *any* user who requests them - I can certainly see this
as a case in the Education sector - yet must also meet other visual designs
important for the majority user-base. There will be others who will possibly
be mandated to use @longdesc for regulatory or policy reasons - it's a big
web out there.

It has repeatedly been pointed out that this could be a browser feature that
could be set to "off" by default, yet could be activated by the end user if
they so choose: we already have similar features in all of the browsers -
for example Firefox allows users to over-ride author style sheets (partially
or completely), and Internet Explorer offers a "High Contrast" mode that
strips much of the decorative CSS off any page, to name but 2 instances of
the end user over-riding the developer/designers visual intent in production
today. I am confident that a whole slew of imaginative solutions could be
developed if UI/UX designers set their mind to it: we already have a number
of browser extensions and plugins that do just that, as well as examples of
JavaScripted UI enhancements that could be added by the author that would
provide a visual exposure of @longdesc to sighted users, while preserving
the core functionality being offered by screen readers.

As for "the real problem" today, the intent of Chaals' draft at this time is
to capture, confirm and codify what we have on the ground today with regard
to support for @longdesc, without imposing any further requirements on the
browsers. The goal is to ensure that authors who choose to can continue to
use @longdesc and still produce 'valid' HTML5 (per the W3C validator) by
making the @longdesc attribute fully conformant. For this reason alone, it
should not experience any push-back from the browser vendors, as it has no
additional technical/engineering imposition attached to it. If some of those
vendors can see the benefit of extending the usefulness of @longdesc to
other groups of their users (beyond the non-sighted - as for example Opera
and iCab have) then they will make that strategic and business decision - if
they don't, they won't, and those users who want to avail themselves to the
benefits of @longdesc content will also make their own market decisions
accordingly. As I have often said, choice is good.

Received on Friday, 9 November 2012 06:35:50 UTC

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