ISSUE-2114: 'title' and 'desc' elements in SVG 1.2T


'title' and 'desc' elements in SVG 1.2T

Raised by:
Doug Schepers
Opened on:
Al Gilman

This is the Editor's draft, it has absorbed a number of changes

** summary

I think there are things we would want to change in the specification
provisions for these features in SVG 1.2T. On the other hand, I don't
think that this release is the time to make the changes.

** details

* defects in the present treatment

SVG provides a <title> element and a <desc> (for description) element
for documenting documents and document fragments in SVG.

SVG 1.2T narrows the content model of these elements to plain text.

It describes the <title> text as


The 'title' element must contain a short title for the container or
graphics element containing it. This short title must provide
information supplementary to the rendering of the element, but will
normally not be sufficient to replace it.


It describes the <desc> text as


The 'desc' element contains a longer, more detailed description for
the container or graphics element containing it. This description
must be usable as replacement content for cases when the user cannot
see the rendering of the SVG element for some reason.


This, to me, feels like we have analogous features for
and for html4:img.longdesc but nothing that fills the role of
html4:img.alt: a terse replacement text.

The user needs a terse replacement that identifies what this object or
container is so they can decide to move on to the next or learn more
about this one. That browse-ability or 'interactive verbosity control'
is part of the look-and-feel adaptation capability required.

In my ontology of textual information about something, "a short title"
and "supplementary to the rendering of the element" are conflicting
descriptions. "A short title" should be sufficient to identify the
graphic object or container in the absence of that object or collection.
In this case, 'supplementary' is misleading.

My discussion of how tooltip behavior stole @title away from being a
proper title is at

Likewise for the longer version, in practice a replacement and a
description are not the same thing. So I feel that this discussion
sounds more prescriptive, but fails to be a clear and successful set
of instructions.

* ambiguity in the "right answer"

We are still wrestling with HTML WG as regards how to meet the
various needs for text information about a graphic object.

I think it's fairly clear we want markup back in these elements.
Internationalization and accessibility are not adequately addressed by
a <switch> on systemLanguage when what is needed is <ruby> for a
Japanese proper name or ssml:say-as information.

Allowing markup inside a description would make it easy to mark the
content for tapered presentation with a header element that suffices
for quick-look and the rest of the <desc> to support those who want
to drill down.

That said, it's not clear what foreign markup vocabularies the SVG
processors should all be required to support.

At least there are required-capability metadata features defined
such as requiredFonts and requiredFormats.

The point here is that the author wants to do right and put a
foreignObject in to fill the role of the <desc> they have to add ARIA
markup with @role='description' and an explicit @describedby on the
enclosing element that is being described.

But this does not add up to a design.

One plan for a consistent schema of media object properties is
discussed at

.. but PFWG has not reviewed this or come to a consensus behind it.

None of the above constitutes a substitute design; and I doubt we could
come up with a substitute design with the required implementation
experience to get 1.2T to advance in a timely fashion.

** so what to do?

If someone can go over this and propose alternate language for SVG 1.2T
that more clearly implements WCAG2 SC 1.1.1, and do it by the comment
deadline Monday, that would be great. Especially great if it doesn't
have any Implementation Report consequences.

Failing that, I think that we should let 1.2T go with a heads-up that
this is an area we should revisit on the way to SVG 1.2 Core + modules.
Related Actions Items:
No related actions
Related emails:
  1. ISSUE-2114 (title-desc-accessibility): 'title' and 'desc' elements in SVG 1.2T [SVG Core 2.0] (from on 2008-10-11)

Related notes:

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