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Re: semantic level of SVG usage

From: Amelia Bellamy-Royds <amelia.bellamy.royds@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 18 Aug 2016 10:18:43 -0600
Message-ID: <CAFDDJ7zi3Gzoo0E7rNUBkL2h15J_gCLYt6eTE_+KUp0ubsLomw@mail.gmail.com>
To: "Cohn, Jonathan" <jcohn@air.org>
Cc: "w3c-wai-ig@w3.org" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, www-svg <www-svg@w3.org>
Regarding Jonathan Cohn's question:

Is the labeling of SVG supported by the primary screen readers at this
> time? Would your proposal mean that all screen readers would need to
> implement a second approach to providing information?

At this time, screen reader support of SVG is limited, but it has been
getting much better in the past year, primarily because of improvements in
the way the browsers expose the document.

What we had seen previously was that browsers tended to expose ARIA
attributes on SVG elements, but not SVG's native alternative text elements
(which use child text-container elements to describe the parent graphic
element).  SVG 2 and SVG-AAM now require both types of alternative text to
be supported, with the ARIA attributes taking precedence when they are
present.  Therefore, any graphic that was made accessible through the
addition of ARIA attributes will remain accessible in the same way.

But in addition, we expect to see an improvement in accessibility of many
graphics which included alternative text consistent with the SVG 1 model,
but which weren't being correctly exposed to assistive tech.  Furthermore,
because SVG 1 used a child element for alternative text, instead of an
attribute, SVG 2 was able to define multiple alternatives in different

At the screen reader level, there should be no change in implementations:
the differences would be handled at the browser level, in how they compute
the accessible name and description for the shape elements.

Once the browsers get better at exposing SVG documents in a consistent
manner, then more advanced screen reader features may be possible, allowing
two-dimensional exploration of the graphic.  This could be especially
useful once more complex semantics are defined for data charts, maps, and
flow charts.  Some demonstration software exists showing how this could
work, but the interaction is controlled entirely with scripting, rather
than using native screen reader features, so we do not have to worry about
backwards compatibility.

~Amelia Bellamy-Royds
Received on Thursday, 18 August 2016 16:19:16 UTC

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