EPUB 3 Working Group A11y Telco — Minutes

Date: 2021-01-14

See also the Agenda and the IRC Log


Present: Avneesh Singh, Charles LaPierre, Matt Garrish, Juliette McShane, Tzviya Siegman, George Kerscher, Matthew Chan, Ben Schroeter, Cristina Mussinelli, Bill Kasdorf



Chair: Avneesh Singh

Scribe(s): Matthew Chan


Avneesh Singh: https://w3c.github.io/epub-specs/epub33/a11y/index.html.

1. Approaches for elevating EPUB accessibility to new versions of WCAG

See github issue #1459.

Avneesh Singh: there are 3 options.
… option 1: Hard wire EPUB Accessibility 1.1 with WCAG 2.1 (or whatever the current version is).
… if publisher wants to use a lower version of WCAG, they will use the older version of a11y spec.
… option 2: Allow EPUB Accessibility 1.1 to refer to different versions of WCAG (version 2.0 onwards)..
… but downside is that this is more complex.
… option 3: EPUB Accessibility 1.1 has date-less or version-less reference to WCAG (i.e. the latest version always).
… this is approach that we take towards compatibility with HTML.
… but accessibility generally moves at a slower pace.
… this also makes it mandatory for authors to comply with the latest WCAG.
… also, epubs aren’t updated like webpages, once published, they aren’t necessarily updated.

Matt Garrish: there were also intermediate options discussed in the issue.
… like make minimum 2.1, but recommend that publishers use the current WCAG.
… i.e. set a floor beyond which you can’t go, but encourage use of latest.
… romain also suggested that we encourage use of latest, but allow compliance with older versions as long as they disclose which version they are using.

Tzviya Siegman: i like matt’s and romain’s proposal for their greater flexibility.

Cristina Mussinelli: can we get more explanation of option 3?.

Matthew Chan: it would be an undated version, essentially as soon as 2.2 comes out, publishers would have to comply with 2.2 to comply with a11y spec.

Cristina Mussinelli: normally once an epub is released, publishers treat it like a released product. Static, not requiring updates..
… also, with EUAA requiring that epubs comply with spec, tying spec to most up-to-date WCAG places a huge burden on them.
… i prefer the solution where publishers just declare which accessibility version they are using.
… it would be very complex for publishers to identify and update which titles they have to update.

Avneesh Singh: option 3 sounds like it is not the favorite of anyone.

Ben Schroeter: +1 to Cristina’s comment.
… there is always going to be lag between when a new standard is announced and when the publisher can begin to react to the new standard.
… it can be slow.

Avneesh Singh: and it seems like no one likes Option 1, hardwiring spec to WCAG version 2.1.
… we could update the spec to future versions of WCAG under option 1, but then there is the additional overhead of doing this.

Cristina Mussinelli: can we wait to resolve on which approach to take until the next call?.
… we will then have better understanding of what the EUAA requires of the spec.

Avneesh Singh: we’re not making any final decision now. We’ll just post the results of a vote on github as a proposal for people to comment on.

George Kerscher: so we’re proposing that we set a floor of WCAG 2.1, but encourage that publishers use the latest WCAG?.

Matt Garrish: yeah, and then Romain suggested that we not have a hard floor, and instead just subject it to an obligation to disclose the version used.
… and then also, when we refer to the latest version of WCAG, does that refer only to WCAG 2.x, or also 3+?.

Tzviya Siegman: I think we can leave it as “latest version”, but we inside this group will know that we are referring to 2.x only. 3+ is not coming along that quickly.

Avneesh Singh: so, do we want to establish a floor at WCAG 2.1?.

Ben Schroeter: publishers have existing titles that align with 2.0, so are we saying that those are not accessible?.

Avneesh Singh: those would be accessible per spec 1.0, but not spec 1.1.
… in summary, we are proposing option 2: referring to the latest WCAG 2.x, but providing the option to publishers to use earlier versions (up to 2.0).

Matt Garrish: regarding the question of when publishers should “re-check” their connect for accessibility, maybe our guidance should be that publishers should only do that if they re-release their content.
… but maybe it would be better to leave that to legislation to be decided.

George Kerscher: so will this be backwards compatible?.
… so that older publications would conform to the spec without being touched?.

Avneesh Singh: yes.

Charles LaPierre: if we wanted to explore option 3 (i.e. versionless), couldn’t that just be tied to the version of WCAG that was current as of the publication date?.
… so that years later, that publication would still be spec compliant because of its earlier publication date.

George Kerscher: that would make it very complicated for users to know what to expect in terms of a11y. It would require calculation as to which WCAG was current at the time of publishing….

Matt Garrish: for publications, we have to accept that they are created according to a spec at a given point in time.
… unlike other web content.

Charles LaPierre: I like option 2 anyway, was just an idea.

2. Make WCAG AA a requirement for EPUB Accessibility 1.1

See github issue #1454.

Matt Garrish: this is another question of whether we set a floor, and what floor, but for WCAG levels (A, AA, etc.).
… should we set a floor at AA, which is what most legislation seems to be heading towards?.

Charles LaPierre: for Global Certified Accessible, the floor is AA right now.
… we were concerned that publishers wouldn’t get on board.
… but we’ve found support for the AA standard.
… in practice.

George Kerscher: i think that the real hurdles for publishers is in level A anyway, so moving to AA is not that much more difficult, in my mind.

Cristina Mussinelli: agree with respect to current and future publications, but there is still the issue of existing publications.

Charles LaPierre: the language of parts is in the AA level, so books written in multiple languages are a lot of work for publishers wishing for AA level.
… right now, for GCA, publishers who do these types of books are just complying with level A.

Avneesh Singh: level A is also fairly strict for fixed layouts.

Matt Garrish: with respect to AAA, it is very theoretical. Nothing really uses it right now.
… in terms of meeting level A, don’t forget that it is always an option for publishers to state that they meet Level A without strictly adhering to a11y spec.

Avneesh Singh: what we’ve heard now is mostly from reps in US and Italy etc. but a11y compliance is way behind in other parts of the world.
… would setting a floor at AA, would this be unrealistic for publishing in other parts of the world?.

George Kerscher: About the language switching, we will need to put out some best practices about this. Just because there is a reference to something in an english book that is from a foreign language, there doesn’t need to be a lang tag around it..
… there are lots of borrowed terms that are generally accepted as being english.

Tzviya Siegman: when we write accessibility statements for websites, we state that we are “striving” for AA compliance, because we know that there could be things missing.
… similarly for publishers, even those who have been certified, it is still possible for something to be missing from one of the titles.
… if a customer identifies an issue, we will go back and remediate it, but that doesn’t mean that we should hold ourselves to a lower standard.

George Kerscher: +1. We’d expect to get objections if our spec required perfection.

Bill Kasdorf: +1 to George.

Avneesh Singh: “EPUB Publications MUST meet WCAG 2.0 Level A to be conformant with this document, but it is RECOMMENDED that they meet Level AA”.
… this is what it says currently.
… does it require change?.

Cristina Mussinelli: maybe it could say “highly” recommended, or “strongly” recommended? Along with greater explanation of why AA is better than A.

Bill Kasdorf: i think it would be stronger to say “SHOULD” rather than “RECOMMENDED”.

Matt Garrish: recommended and should are equivalent, normatively speaking.
… but do we want to be the authority telling people what to do? Or should we be more accommodative?.
… but maybe we should leave floor setting to legislation, while using the spec to encourage publishers to move to higher levels?.
… and just clearly setting out why it is important to strive for higher levels of a11y compliance.

Charles LaPierre: +1 I am fine with that as well..

Cristina Mussinelli: we should explain why we encourage one level over another.

Proposed resolution: maintain recommendation of AA, but provide explanations why levels are recommended.. (Avneesh Singh)

Matt Garrish: +1.

Avneesh Singh: leaving it to MattG to come up with the final language.

Tzviya Siegman: +1.

Juliette McShane: +1.

Charles LaPierre: +1.

Bill Kasdorf: +1.

Matthew Chan: +1.

Cristina Mussinelli: +1.

George Kerscher: +1.

Ben Schroeter: +1.

Resolution #1: maintain recommendation of AA, but provide explanations why levels are recommended..

3. Reporting conformance

See github issue #1455.

Matt Garrish: there are a number of different ways we could approach conformance.
… one way, 2 conformance statements, 1 for spec, and 1 for WCAG.
… another way, move away from tying this to URLs, and just use text subject to a common pattern.
… but we probably can’t resolve on this until we first resolve the questions of WCAG versions and levels.

Avneesh Singh: in the issue, there was talk about harmonizing ONIX and our conformance statements, this is a good thing.

Charles LaPierre: both approaches above make sense to me.
… one thing, right now vendors like vitalsource are looking in the metadata for a specific string.
… and multiple conforms to statements confused their systems.

Avneesh Singh: we’ll have to keep backwards compatibility in mind for that reason.

George Kerscher: can you clarify the pattern we would use? what that would mean?.

Matt Garrish: yeah, so we could specify an order for spec number, WCAG version and levels, so that the text conformance statement could still be machine readable.

4. AOB?.

Avneesh Singh: thanks everyone, have a great day.

5. Resolutions