Accessibility of Media Elements in HTML 5 Gathering

1 November 2009
Palo Alto, California

The Hypertext CG plan to hold an informal gathering or two on the subject of Accessibility of Media Elements in HTML 5. The media elements are audio and video, and their supporting elements such as source.


The current specification of Timed Media elements HTML5 takes a fairly hard-nosed approach to what is presented as timed media: it is inside the timed media files that are selected from the sources. There is currently no provision for linking or synchronizing other material, and there is no discussion of how to manage the media so it's accessible. This needs addressing.

We would like to understand the 'landscape' and put in place good architectural support in general, as well as making sure that specific solutions exist to the more pressing problems. We anticipate working, in public, to develop proposals for any changes to specifications that might be suggested by the work, and also to develop a cohesive 'best practices' document that shows how those provisions can be used, by authors, by user agents (browsers), and users, to address the issues we identify.

We are aware that good accessibility rests on four legs (at least):

  1. Proper provision in the specifications and documentation of those provisions and how to use them;
  2. Willingness and ability to use those provisions effectively on the part of authors;
  3. Provision of the right preferences, tools, and user interfaces in user agents to enable access to the provisions, perhaps automatically; and
  4. The ability of those who need the provisions to find, enable or access them, and understand what they get.

It's easy to fail on one of these, and good accessibility is not then achieved.

Accessibility provisions for Timed Media might themselves be timed (e.g. captions) or un-timed (e.g. a readable screen-play or transcript). We wish to consider both categories.


The questions we would like to address include, but are not limited to the following:


We think that at least the following communities and groups might be affected:

Requirements for Participation

If you feel prepared to attend, present, and work cooperatively on the problem outlined in the Scope section, please respond to the questionnaire as soon as possible. There is no registration fee, but registration is required. W3C membership is not required in order to participate in the gathering.

To attend the gathering, you must come prepared to present on one of the questions in this document, or a suitable other question, drawing from your experience or expertise to help inform the discussion and make progress on proposing solutions.

We expect the gathering to spend perhaps two-thirds of the time on these presentations, with short Q&A for each. Then we may have a panel session or two, or moderated discussion, to address focused questions. As stated in the introduction, we are looking for a framework and solutions with good 'longevity', simplicity, and efficacy, that will be embraced by the standards community, content authors, user agent developers, and end users. This is ambitious but achievable, we believe, and opportunities such as this to 'get it right from the start' come up all too rarely.

Gathering Organization


David Singer
Apple, Inc.
John Foliot
Stanford University

This gathering is done under the auspices of the HyperText Coordination Group.

Team Contact

Philippe Le H├ęgaret, W3C


This informal gathering will last one day, and the first one will be held in the Bay Area on November 1st at Stanford University. The meeting place is 20 minutes away from the TPAC 2009 hotel (see directions).

Meeting Location

Stanford University
Tresidder Union building, 2nd floor
459 Lagunita Dr,
Palo Alto, CA

There are numerous way-finding signs on campus for both Tressider Union, and the Faculty Club, which is next door. Free weekend parking is available in the lot across from Tressider Union.

John Foliot, Dave Singer, and the HyperText CG