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Re: Comment on WAI-ARIA Role

From: Jon Gunderson <jongund@uiuc.edu>
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2008 11:34:39 -0600 (CST)
To: Neil Soiffer <Neils@dessci.com>, w3c-wai-pf@w3.org, public-pfwg-comments@w3.org
Message-Id: <20080221113439.BCL07361@expms1.cites.uiuc.edu>


I think that is a great idea.


---- Original message ----
>Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2008 23:25:36 -0800
>From: "Neil Soiffer" <Neils@dessci.com>  
>Subject: Comment on WAI-ARIA Role  
>To: w3c-wai-pf@w3.org, public-pfwg-comments@w3.org
>   I work for Design Science, which is a W3C member.  I
>   am a member of the MathML Working Group and have
>   been since its inception.  I am also chair of the
>   DAISY/Math Working Group.  That WG developed a spec
>   that added MathML to DAISY; it was approved about a
>   year ago.  Our company developed MathPlayer, the
>   standard "plug-in" for IE to display MathML both
>   visually and aurally.  MathPlayer works with JAWS,
>   Window-Eyes, TextHELP, and other AT to make math
>   encoded with MathML accessible.  It is capable of
>   generating speech, synchronized highlighting, and
>   braille from the MathML.
>   I have a request for an additional "role" to further
>   support math accessibility.  First, some context...
>   Because of browser implementation issues, MathML
>   adoption has not been as widespread as it should
>   otherwise be.  A lot of people/sites, including
>   wikipedia, still use images for math.  However, the
>   images often include alt text or embedded comments
>   that could be used to make the image accessible.  An
>   idea that Design Science has been thinking about is
>   writing JavaScript that grabs the alt text or
>   embedded comments and provides some level of
>   accessibility.  For example, if the image contains
>   embedded MathML and MathPlayer was installed, then
>   the javascript could rewrite the page as one
>   containing MathML and MathPlayer could take over
>   display and interaction with AT.  If MathPlayer
>   wasn't installed (for example, someone is running
>   Firefox on Linux), the JavaScript could still do the
>   translation of MathML to speech and braille.  It
>   wouldn't be able to magnify or sync highlight.  If
>   TeX or some other known format was found, the
>   JavaScript could translate it to MathML and then
>   make it accessible.
>   The same JavaScript accessibility issues arise with
>   this idea as with other JavaScript -- AT doesn't
>   know about the JavaScript and doesn't know that the
>   image (or div/span for JSMath) is really math.  If
>   it did know, then it could call on our interfaces
>   (or eventually some standard expert handler
>   interface) and get an appropriate string to speak or
>   string to send to the braille display (math has it
>   own braille codes and they are not identical to what
>   is spoken).
>   Now for the suggestion...  ARIA should have a way to
>   say 'this element is actually math'.  My non-expert
>   suggestion for how to do this would be to add a
>   "math" role to the list of known roles.  'math'
>   would be similar to 'grid' in that it represents
>   document structure and contains other elements. 
>   Ideally, an extensible mechanism would be desirable,
>   but math is an obvious case that maps onto an
>   existing W3C standard and would enhance existing
>   pages that don't use MathML.
>   As a real life example from Wikipedia
>   [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nth_root], the first
>   image in the XHTML could potentially be made
>   accessible if AT knew about it by adding a role
>   attribute as
>   <img class="tex" alt="\sqrt[n]{a}" role="math"
>   src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/math/9/a/2/9a2b6d33f3d62a1e8bd99c76f3cb79f5.png">
>   [Note:  the alt text is present on the Wikipedia
>   page.  The TeX was used to generate the image in the
>   first place]
>   Adding role="math" says that the alt text or
>   comments in the image contains information that can
>   be used for accessibility purposes.  It alerts AT
>   software so that they can call on some expert math
>   handler to get information about how to handle the
>   element.
>   Neil Soiffer
>   Senior Scientist
>   Design Science, Inc.
>   neils@dessci.com
>   www.dessci.com
>   ~ Makers of Equation Editor, MathType, MathPlayer
>   and MathFlow ~
Jon Gunderson, Ph.D.
Coordinator Information Technology Accessibility
Disability Resources and Educational Services

Rehabilitation Education Center
Room 86
1207 S. Oak Street
Champaign, Illinois 61821

Voice: (217) 244-5870

WWW: http://www.cita.uiuc.edu/
WWW: https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/jongund/www/
Received on Thursday, 21 February 2008 17:35:17 UTC

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