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Unresolved Issues

From: eric hansen <ehansen@ets.org>
Date: Tue, 14 Sep 1999 15:48:29 -0400 (EDT)
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Message-id: <vines.Bh0E+BOerrA@cips06.ets.org>
Unresolved Issues, 13 September 1999

There are a few issues that, at least in my mind, were unresolved in the 5 
May recommendation and which needed further attention. It seems that some 
of the recent discussion on the role and nature of LONGDESC are related. 

General Issue Regarding Text Equivalents

Issue 1 - What are "entry points" for text equivalents for each element 
type? By entry point, I mean that this is the first place to look for a 
text equivalent for some piece of primary content. It is obvious that the 
entry point for IMG elements in the primary content is the alt-text. But 
for other elements I am not sure that it is always obvious. Is a LONGDESC 
or d-link ever the entry point for a text equivalent or is it always a 
secondary (or later) location for text equivalents? (It appears that 
LONGDESC is an entry point for a text equivalent of a frame.)

Issue 2 - Are there recommended maximum lengths for alternative content at 
entry points. For example what is the maximum length for alt-text: 10 words 
or 60 characters?

Issue 3 - What are the possible (approved) ways of pointing to secondary 
(and tertiary, etc.) locations for alternative content? For example, 
suppose that the main text equivalent for an IMG is found in one paragraph 
in the main body of a document, in other words, that the text equivalent is 
available to all users as part of the main document. Presumably there 
should be something in the alt-text value that refers to that paragraph; 
what should be the style and structure of that reference? Another example 
concerns the use of LONGDESC. Should the alt-text value refer to the 
existence and/or location of the LONGDESC? Should references be made via 
prose or by URI? Should terms like "above" and "below" be used? This issue 
points to the bigger issue how "meta" information could or should be used 
to establish associations between alternative content and the content for 
which it is an alternative.

Issue 4 - How does one designate (tag) the scope (extent, span) of text 
equivalents that are part of the primary content? (This issue is simply an 
elaboration of #3.)

Issue 5 - Should there be specific tagging to signal the URI/location and 
sequence of text equivalents for a given piece of content? (This issue is 
simply an elaboration of #3.)

Issue 6 - How does one handle text equivalents for specific disabilities? 
Because a text equivalent may be constrained/defined by the nature of a 
disability and the state of technology, it is possible to have different 
text equivalents for different disabilities. For the sake of efficiency, we 
encourage people to write text equivalents that would be appropriate for 
essentially all disability groups, but this may not always be practical. 
For example, certain variants may be better suited to different types of 
cognitive or learning disabilities or deafness. How would one tag these 
alternative text equivalents?

Text Equivalents and Multiple Languages

Issue 7 - How does one handle "text equivalents" in other languages? Isn't 
it the case that alt-text, LONGDESC, and d-links are reserved for 
accessibility purposes, not internationalization efforts?

Issue 8 - How does one handle language changes in the midst of locations in 
which the language attribute is not available (e.g., alt attribute).

Issue 9 - How does one handle parallels versions of content in different 
languages. For example, if the Rosetta Stone were transferred to the Web, 
what tagging would be appropriate?

Text Equivalents and Auxiliary Information

Issue 10 - In what location(s) does one discuss the relationships between 
frames as required in checkpoint 12.2? (I realize now that this is 
basically explained in technique 4.10.2, although I was somewhat surprised 
to have the contents of LONGDESC called a text equivalent for the frame. I 
wonder if that should be considered some kind auxiliary or meta information 
but not a text equivalent.) 

Issue 11 - How does one signal to the user the existence location of 
auxiliary information, such as title, table summary, acronyms, 
abbreviations? (This seems to be a basic issue for authoring tool and user 
agent groups and is probably being addressed.)

Issue 12 - Is "title" a disability access feature? Could title be used as a 
text equivalent? (My notes suggest that I saw it being used as such but I 
don't recall what it may have been.)

Some concluding thoughts.

It seems to me that many of these issues are really various facets of one 
major issue: "How will users know the existence of alternative content and 
quickly access it?" It seems apparent that language standards (HTML, XML, 
etc.) and accessibility guidelines (for Web content, authoring tools, and 
user agents) must all work together to ensure achieve a high level of 
accessibility. Also, we must be careful about mixing accessibility with 
internationalization efforts. Additional effort should perhaps being given 
to defining more clearly the line that divides equivalents from the 
auxiliary or meta information that permits proper rendering of those 

Eric G. Hansen, Ph.D.
Development Scientist
Educational Testing Service
ETS 12-R
Rosedale Road
Princeton, NJ 08541
(W) 609-734-5615
(Fax) 609-734-1090
E-mail: ehansen@ets.org 
Received on Tuesday, 14 September 1999 15:51:49 UTC

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