W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > January 2015

RE: About the main element

From: Léonie Watson <lwatson@paciellogroup.com>
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 2015 10:33:58 -0000
To: "'VILAIN Dominique'" <dominique.vilain@hepl.be>, <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <007f01d03c78$423228f0$c6967ad0$@paciellogroup.com>
Dominique  Vilain wrote:

"Most of the time, when i make websites, i use HTML 4.01 Strict. My choice is motivated by accessibility concerns essentially and especially by the fact that i am well aware that many assistive technologies have relatively poor support of a number of the many features of HTML5, particularly the Outline."


When you use HTML5 you can make things more accessible for people using assistive technologies that support it. Using HTML5 doesn't necessarily degrade the experience for people using assistive technologies that don't support it either.


For example, if you use HTML5 elements like header, main and footer, you provide useful information to people using screen readers that support HTML5. The experience for people using screen readers that don't support HTML5 is exactly the same as if the site had been marked up using div elements instead.


"So, that is the context of my question : Since the W3C specification describes an algorithm that User-Agents should use to outline the hierarchy of headings, we want to teach it."


The specification describes how the outline algorithm should work, but it doesn't work in practice because browsers don't support it.


You can teach students to structure content according to the principles of the outline algorithm, but browsers and assistive technologies aren't going to recognise that. Instead of a page with a robust heading hierarchy, a screen reader user will get a page with only h1 headings available.


"We try to do it with the idea that the heading strategy used in a document must be compliant with both HTML 4 and HTML5 outliners for accessibility reasons."


Without any browser support for the outline algorithm, the best approach for screen reader usability is to use the HTML4 approach of providing an explicit (h1 – h6) heading hierarchy.


"We can’t just tell our students : “Please forget what the specification says about the outline of HTML5 and its sectioning elements. Anyway, you won’t find any accessible technology nor regular User-Agents using it. Just continue to use the div elements and think about the headings the old way“."


You can use HTML5 elements with an explicit (h1 – h6) heading hierarchy [1]. There's nothing in the spec that prevents this, or that says you must mark up chunks of the page with a div if you do.


"What credibility would Web Standards have if we did ? We have to find some compromise like always with Web technologies."


Web standards are only truly tested when they're implemented by browsers and used by developers. Some features are adopted and others are not. It's always been that way. Those things that never gain wide adoption tend to fall out of future evolutions of the spec. The dir and menu elements were obsolete by the time HTML4 was released for example [2], and the HTML4 axis attribute went the same way by the time HTML5 arrived [3].




[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/html/sections.html#the-h1,-h2,-h3,-h4,-h5,-and-h6-elements

[2] http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/struct/lists.html#edef-MENU

[3] http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/struct/tables.html#adef-axis



Senior Accessibility Engineer, TPG

@LeonieWatson @PacielloGroup

Received on Friday, 30 January 2015 10:34:15 UTC

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