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Shapshot of HTML5 Accessibility Issues Currently "in play", August 2008

Note: this page is based on information originally compiled by Laura Carlson on 14 August 2008

In response to a query about the direction of HTML5 and the possible positive and negative effects on accessibility of changes in the specification, Laura Carlson, an HTML WG member, prepared the following summation:

Issues Relating to the alt Attribute

Optional alt Issue

Proper Usage of the alt Attribute

One of the biggest change between the first draft and the second draft of HTML5, was that the majority of the usage examples and code samples were removed. Usage examples and code samples from HTML WG Action 54 first draft are being refined and most have now been submitted as Techniques for WCAG 2.0. If they are accepted, the action 54 document will link to them there.

Since a format specification is not a tutorial. Including detailed guidance in alt attribute techniques could be seen as usurping the role of WCAG 2.0 and its techniques documents. PF has also pointed out, "WCAG WG is chartered to set Accessibility guidelines and HTML WG is not". The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is the accessibility authority.

Use/Misuse of alt to Convey Machine-Parseable Generic Type Values

HTML WG Issue 58 has been raised regarding the editor's curly brace proposal for the alt attribute. Curly braces are but one of many potential solutions for improving, extending and replacing alt have been discussed. The HTML 5 editor imposing a particular solution and adding it to the draft could be seen as usurping the role of WAI. PF has previously pointed out, "WCAG WG is chartered to set Accessibility guidelines and HTML WG is not".

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is the accessibility authority.

The curly braces proposal in the editor's draft doesn't appear to be a text equivalent per WCAG. The HTML WG needs to be sure deliverables satisfy accessibility requirements. PF are the go-to-guys for guidance in accessibility matters. PF's counsel is needed BEFORE any particular solution is chosen to be added to the next published draft. The curly braces proposal should not be published outside of an editor's draft without consultation and collaboration with PF.

The issue of curly braces used to contain generic type values for alt is actively being investigated by the PFWG, as are alternatives, such as the use of a role attribute to convey generic type values for elements is also under active consideration and development.

TABLE Accessibility Issues

summary Attribute for Tables

Thorough details and history of the discussion over the summary attribute for TABLE, from May 2007 to date is captured in a HTML WG wiki page, entitled: "Mechanism to Summarize a Table"

In March Issue 32 was closed by the editor: "Rejected by editor due to unclear problem description". But on June 12 it was reopened. The minutes of the meeting where the issue was reopened read: "reopened issue 32 and will remain open until have a resolution that allows it to be closed; not resolved now -- needs more discussion". As a result, HTML WG Action item 66 was opened.

Advice From PFWG on @summary

In a formal response as chair of PFWG, Al Gilman { informed the HTML WG of the PF's stance on @summary]:

  1. @summary should stay.
  2. It provides a needed service.
  3. element content providing this info, if linked by markup to the table offers growth to even better practice.
  4. Don't have the linking markup yet; is a developmental item.
  5. evolution not revolution says: keep @summary at least until alternatives are deployed and stable."

headers for TABLE

Thorough details and history of discussion of the headers attribute from May 2007 to date are availble from the HTML WG's portion of the ESW wiki.

The HTML5 editor added headers to the draft specification. HTML 5 now says that "The td element may have a headers content attribute specified". However, the summary issue isn't solved by the current specification's language.

Follow-up and Continued Issues and Actions pertaining to @summary

title attribute issue

Steve Faulkner raised bug 5807: User Agent display of title attribute content not defined. Steve continues to [ work on addressing the issue of the exposition of title (along with many others) from within PF.

longdesc issue

Chaals McCathieNevile raised HTML WG ISSUE-30: longdesc. No Action has been assigned to address this issue yet from within the HTML WG, although there has been much dialog about the provision of a terse and long descriptor mechanism in HTML5.

Support for WAI-ARIA in HTML5

PF has been actively pursuing the issue of support for WAI-ARIA in HTML5.