VHA Comments on HTML5 Draft Specification

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VHA Comments on HTML5 Draft Specification

Lipner, Mia

Hello,

 

Attached and below, please find the VHA Section 508 Office comments pertaining to various sections of the current HTML5 specification.  They have been listed by section name in a single document.  Many of these comments regard concerns about the impact of the current specification on accessibility for people with disabilities.  As a government agency who serves persons with disabilities while trying to use the latest online technologies, we believe it is vital that accessibility be supported and encouraged as new technologies and protocols emerge.  Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

 

The Title Element

Since the title attribute can be applied to almost any element, reliable means will need to be provided to allow AT users and those who do not use a mouse, to be able to access that advisory information without being hampered by it.  Not having access to tooltips is occasionally problematic now, but not being able to access information such as source reference information for a paragraph when located in a title attribute on an element that cannot gain keyboard focus will be even more of an issue. 

Also, here “description of an image” is listed as advisory information, continuing the confusion about where “alt” is appropriate and where “title” should be used.  The description of an image is not “advisory” it is descriptive.  The description of the purpose of an image might be advisory.

For instance the image of a printer being used to send to a printer, should have alt=”print” or alt=”printer” but title=”Click this button to send to a printer”.

 

DL/DT/DD

The definitions of these elements seem too vague and it appears to be implied that they are really for use in placement of certain kinds of text lines in relation to each other.  On their own, without the dfn element, they are no longer explicitly meant to be used for “definitions” as such. Since these elements were being used for other purposes anyway, that seems understandable, however, aside from the admonition that they are not for use for dialog, no strong case is made for why they should be used as demonstrated, especially where other semantic or stylistic elements could serve.  They appear to be meant to show relationship within a group, but it also appears that that relationship can be entirely arbitrary.

 

A phrase or paragraph with an alternative graphical representation: charts, diagrams, graphs, maps, illustrations

This section is clearly meant to fill the role of the longdesc attribute.  Unfortunately, the reasoning used is flawed.  It assumes several things:

1. That all users require the same level of description for complex information at all times;

2. That the alt attribute is adequate to the task of conveying textual descriptions of graphical information.

At the VHA, we encounter graphical information in the form of screen-captures of what would otherwise be tabular data, or charts with complex interrelationships of information.  If the suggested implementation here were to be used, a user (such as a screen reader user) could encounter something like:

<img src="screenshot.jpg" alt="Table with five rows and five columns listing types of conditions and their severity. The first cell (column 1, row 1) is empty. Column 2, Row 1, says Pulmonary; Column 3, Row 1 says Circulatory; Column 4, Row 1 says Muscular; Column 5, Row 1 says Neurological. Column 1, Row 2 says, Minor Concerns … Column 5, Row 5 says coma”>

Not only would this be tedious to listen to for anyone who just needed to know that the image was a screenshot with lists of different types of ailments, it would not allow them to explore the layout of the table in a 2-dimensional way, to understand the relationship of the tabular data.

The argument could be made that this information should have been provided in tabular form anyway, without the graphic, except that the purpose of the graphic is not just to convey the data itself, but to show how it would be presented in a particular computer application for a user to select from.

It would be much more useful to provide multi-layered description (such as could be available with a modified and updated longdesc attribute) so that the image would be presented as:

<img src=”screenshot.jpg” alt=”screenshot of ailment selection screen” longdesc=”LinkToTableInformationForThoseWhoWantIt”>. 

This would also be true of complex charts describing multiple factors that interact, or in less formal items like clothing catalogs where both an alt=”short-sleeved shirt” could be supplemented with a long-description that gives details to only those who need more description.  Those who were not looking for ANY type of short-sleeved shirt would not have to deal with the description of the fabric and color, etc.

However, if a new form of long description is implemented, the description of how to utilize it should be made much clearer, and user-agents should be able to make that information available to any user who wants it; not just screen-reader users.  In some ways, it would seem that adapting the details element to this purpose could work nicely (perhaps also becoming an attribute of img, or there should be a way of adapting it to an “additional information about images” role).  Coming up with a details-as-attribute or being able to apply a details element to an image could alleviate one of the problems with longdesc – far too few people knew what it was meant for.  Since the details element is described as being something that is used to provide further information on text, being able to apply it or something like it to img would basically do the same thing – provide a clickable element that indicates that there is more information available.

 

Guidance for conformance checkers

Allowing a conformance checker to allow images without alt attributes as long as they have a title attribute are asking for trouble.  Already, people assume that title and alt can serve the same purpose, and although the spec explains the limited situations in which a title attribute is acceptable, your average web-developer is not going to read the specification.  We have not gotten web devs to reliably implement alt attributes yet, allowing conformance checkers to pass an alt-free img because it has a title attribute, or because the image has been generated with certain tools, will only maintain the level of “but the checker said it was fine” that we already have.  Images without alt attributes should always be flagged. If exceptions need to be made for the cases listed in the situations cited, those exceptions should be made knowingly by a human being somewhere (webmaster, site maintainer, etc.).  Also, with the advancing level of image recognition, there may eventually be automatic ways of generating rudimentary alternative text which could also count as rudimentary keyword generation for categorizing online images.  Explicitly excusing a condition based on current inconvenience and limitations seems short-sighted.

It would also be useful to have a way to view alternative text even if images are not turned off, for users who would benefit from this feature.

PS. The suggested alternative text for the image taken by the blind photographer would seem to be inaccurate.  Hummingbird feeders do not contain nuts and seeds, they contain sugar water, so whomever described the picture as a hummingbird feeder has mislead the alt-text reader.

 

The Video Element

There does not appear to be any provision for providing alternative text for the Posterframe of the video.  I understand why this would be something that is difficult to require, but it should be possible, and even recommended.  After all, there might be a video whose title is “A Day At The Beach”.  Knowing whether the posterframe contains the image of a child throwing a ball into the surf for their dog, a surfer heading into the waves, or an attractive couple holding hands, conveys very different information about what that video might contain.

 

The Audio Element

No provision appears to be made for simple visual alternatives to indicate that audio is playing to let a deaf user know.  This is not the same as a caption or a transcript, but would be the ability to provide a quick indicator of important sound effects, or even just to let the user know that there is a piece of music looping in the background.  Without a way to provide this kind of information, users with hearing impairment could miss vital audio cues, or could inadvertently annoy people nearby because the machine they are using has its speakers blaring a midi loop of “Mary Had A Little Lamb”.

 

The Canvas Element

Other than a reference to providing keyboard accessibility in the fallback content, there is no reference to providing accessibility for users with various disabilities.  Visual focus for off-screen elements is an issue for users of screen magnification and low vision users, with no visual keyboard indication and no tracking of programmatic focus in the magnified area.  This makes “fallback content” appear to be the “text-only alternative” of this decade.  Until there are strong recommendations for how to make Canvas content accessible, there is a huge risk of unequal access to interesting and innovative content.

 

The Area Element

It states that if an area does not have an href then it cannot be selected and thus does not require an alt attribute.  It is unclear how that would comply with other requirements for alternative text on images.  For example, imagine the areas in an image map represent rooms in a house, but only the kitchen, living room and bedroom can be selected, but there are also a bathroom, a dining room, and a library represented in the image, which are not presently active.  Not providing text representations of those rooms would be withholding information from a user who does not have access to the image.  This would be especially true if links from areas are dynamically generated.  It would seem that having an area’s text representation appear and disappear, could be more disconcerting than having it always present, but with appropriate indicators of whether it is an active link or an inactive graphic.  Inactive areas could be kept out of the tab order though.  Also, a means would have to be provided for areas with empty alt attributes from being placed in the tab order. 

 

Input Elements

Extensive work will need to be done that the new elements have appropriate accessibility for users with disabilities, including keyboard/non-pointer-device accessibility, as well as appropriate indicators of states and attributes that impact how or whether a user can interact with that input element.  Although there could be great promise in having a consistent means of providing input elements, accessibility concerns will need to be taken into account when determining how user agents display that information to the user, and expose information to AT.

 

The Required Attribute

The availability of this attribute could vastly improve the consistent accessibility of this information to users with disabilities.  However, for this to be true, work will need to be done to assure that user agents provide means to indicate the required state to all users, including those with disabilities, regardless of whether they are using AT.  Displaying consistent visual cues (that are (or can be made) non-color-dependent), as well as programmatic indication for AT will be necessary. 

 

The Menu Element

Although there is great potential usefulness in the menu element, a lot of careful work will need to be done to assure that the variety of children, options, list items, command elements, etc., it can support are consistently accessible to users with disabilities across all available browsers.

 

Element level Focus APIs

In this section, people are instructed to use CSS to hide the focus ring if they “find it unsightly”.  There should be additional information letting them know that doing so can jeopardize accessibility for some people including those who can see the screen, but who also rely upon keyboard accessibility. 

 

Content Editable

There is insufficient discussion of keyboard accessibility for this feature.  More needs to be provided beyond caret position and selection information.  This is also true for Document.designMode. 

 

    

 

Mia Lipner

Section 508 Program and Management Analyst

415.400.4122

 


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Re: VHA Comments on HTML5 Draft Specification

Michael[tm] Smith
In response to the following message:

  http://www.w3.org/mid/B6CB855C5769484F862F4FB2CCFA50F402D545A7@...

... the following bug has been raised in the W3C Bugzilla database:

  http://www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/show_bug.cgi?id=13590

You are encouraged to add yourself to the CC List for the bug -- which
will require that you create a W3C Bugzilla user account (if you don't
have one already):

  http://www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/createaccount.cgi

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Re: VHA Comments on HTML5 Draft Specification

Michael[tm] Smith
In reply to this post by Lipner, Mia
Hello Mia,

Note that there has been a response to your comment about the menu element
that you or others familiar with the content of the comment should reply to:

  http://www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/show_bug.cgi?id=13737#c1

"Lipner, Mia" <[hidden email]>, 2011-08-02 15:18 -0500:

> Hello,
>
>  
>
> Attached and below, please find the VHA Section 508 Office comments
> pertaining to various sections of the current HTML5 specification.  They
> have been listed by section name in a single document.  Many of these
> comments regard concerns about the impact of the current specification
> on accessibility for people with disabilities.  As a government agency
> who serves persons with disabilities while trying to use the latest
> online technologies, we believe it is vital that accessibility be
> supported and encouraged as new technologies and protocols emerge.
> Thank you for your consideration of these comments.
>
>  
>
> The Title Element
>
> Since the title attribute can be applied to almost any element, reliable
> means will need to be provided to allow AT users and those who do not
> use a mouse, to be able to access that advisory information without
> being hampered by it.  Not having access to tooltips is occasionally
> problematic now, but not being able to access information such as source
> reference information for a paragraph when located in a title attribute
> on an element that cannot gain keyboard focus will be even more of an
> issue.  
>
> Also, here "description of an image" is listed as advisory information,
> continuing the confusion about where "alt" is appropriate and where
> "title" should be used.  The description of an image is not "advisory"
> it is descriptive.  The description of the purpose of an image might be
> advisory.
>
> For instance the image of a printer being used to send to a printer,
> should have alt="print" or alt="printer" but title="Click this button to
> send to a printer".
>
>  
>
> DL/DT/DD
>
> The definitions of these elements seem too vague and it appears to be
> implied that they are really for use in placement of certain kinds of
> text lines in relation to each other.  On their own, without the dfn
> element, they are no longer explicitly meant to be used for
> "definitions" as such. Since these elements were being used for other
> purposes anyway, that seems understandable, however, aside from the
> admonition that they are not for use for dialog, no strong case is made
> for why they should be used as demonstrated, especially where other
> semantic or stylistic elements could serve.  They appear to be meant to
> show relationship within a group, but it also appears that that
> relationship can be entirely arbitrary.
>
>  
>
> A phrase or paragraph with an alternative graphical representation:
> charts, diagrams, graphs, maps, illustrations
>
> This section is clearly meant to fill the role of the longdesc
> attribute.  Unfortunately, the reasoning used is flawed.  It assumes
> several things:
>
> 1. That all users require the same level of description for complex
> information at all times;
>
> 2. That the alt attribute is adequate to the task of conveying textual
> descriptions of graphical information.
>
> At the VHA, we encounter graphical information in the form of
> screen-captures of what would otherwise be tabular data, or charts with
> complex interrelationships of information.  If the suggested
> implementation here were to be used, a user (such as a screen reader
> user) could encounter something like:
>
> <img src="screenshot.jpg" alt="Table with five rows and five columns
> listing types of conditions and their severity. The first cell (column
> 1, row 1) is empty. Column 2, Row 1, says Pulmonary; Column 3, Row 1
> says Circulatory; Column 4, Row 1 says Muscular; Column 5, Row 1 says
> Neurological. Column 1, Row 2 says, Minor Concerns ... Column 5, Row 5
> says coma">
>
> Not only would this be tedious to listen to for anyone who just needed
> to know that the image was a screenshot with lists of different types of
> ailments, it would not allow them to explore the layout of the table in
> a 2-dimensional way, to understand the relationship of the tabular data.
>
> The argument could be made that this information should have been
> provided in tabular form anyway, without the graphic, except that the
> purpose of the graphic is not just to convey the data itself, but to
> show how it would be presented in a particular computer application for
> a user to select from.
>
> It would be much more useful to provide multi-layered description (such
> as could be available with a modified and updated longdesc attribute) so
> that the image would be presented as:
>
> <img src="screenshot.jpg" alt="screenshot of ailment selection screen"
> longdesc="LinkToTableInformationForThoseWhoWantIt">.  
>
> This would also be true of complex charts describing multiple factors
> that interact, or in less formal items like clothing catalogs where both
> an alt="short-sleeved shirt" could be supplemented with a
> long-description that gives details to only those who need more
> description.  Those who were not looking for ANY type of short-sleeved
> shirt would not have to deal with the description of the fabric and
> color, etc.
>
> However, if a new form of long description is implemented, the
> description of how to utilize it should be made much clearer, and
> user-agents should be able to make that information available to any
> user who wants it; not just screen-reader users.  In some ways, it would
> seem that adapting the details element to this purpose could work nicely
> (perhaps also becoming an attribute of img, or there should be a way of
> adapting it to an "additional information about images" role).  Coming
> up with a details-as-attribute or being able to apply a details element
> to an image could alleviate one of the problems with longdesc - far too
> few people knew what it was meant for.  Since the details element is
> described as being something that is used to provide further information
> on text, being able to apply it or something like it to img would
> basically do the same thing - provide a clickable element that indicates
> that there is more information available.
>
>  
>
> Guidance for conformance checkers
>
> Allowing a conformance checker to allow images without alt attributes as
> long as they have a title attribute are asking for trouble.  Already,
> people assume that title and alt can serve the same purpose, and
> although the spec explains the limited situations in which a title
> attribute is acceptable, your average web-developer is not going to read
> the specification.  We have not gotten web devs to reliably implement
> alt attributes yet, allowing conformance checkers to pass an alt-free
> img because it has a title attribute, or because the image has been
> generated with certain tools, will only maintain the level of "but the
> checker said it was fine" that we already have.  Images without alt
> attributes should always be flagged. If exceptions need to be made for
> the cases listed in the situations cited, those exceptions should be
> made knowingly by a human being somewhere (webmaster, site maintainer,
> etc.).  Also, with the advancing level of image recognition, there may
> eventually be automatic ways of generating rudimentary alternative text
> which could also count as rudimentary keyword generation for
> categorizing online images.  Explicitly excusing a condition based on
> current inconvenience and limitations seems short-sighted.
>
> It would also be useful to have a way to view alternative text even if
> images are not turned off, for users who would benefit from this
> feature.
>
> PS. The suggested alternative text for the image taken by the blind
> photographer would seem to be inaccurate.  Hummingbird feeders do not
> contain nuts and seeds, they contain sugar water, so whomever described
> the picture as a hummingbird feeder has mislead the alt-text reader.
>
>  
>
> The Video Element
>
> There does not appear to be any provision for providing alternative text
> for the Posterframe of the video.  I understand why this would be
> something that is difficult to require, but it should be possible, and
> even recommended.  After all, there might be a video whose title is "A
> Day At The Beach".  Knowing whether the posterframe contains the image
> of a child throwing a ball into the surf for their dog, a surfer heading
> into the waves, or an attractive couple holding hands, conveys very
> different information about what that video might contain.
>
>  
>
> The Audio Element
>
> No provision appears to be made for simple visual alternatives to
> indicate that audio is playing to let a deaf user know.  This is not the
> same as a caption or a transcript, but would be the ability to provide a
> quick indicator of important sound effects, or even just to let the user
> know that there is a piece of music looping in the background.  Without
> a way to provide this kind of information, users with hearing impairment
> could miss vital audio cues, or could inadvertently annoy people nearby
> because the machine they are using has its speakers blaring a midi loop
> of "Mary Had A Little Lamb".
>
>  
>
> The Canvas Element
>
> Other than a reference to providing keyboard accessibility in the
> fallback content, there is no reference to providing accessibility for
> users with various disabilities.  Visual focus for off-screen elements
> is an issue for users of screen magnification and low vision users, with
> no visual keyboard indication and no tracking of programmatic focus in
> the magnified area.  This makes "fallback content" appear to be the
> "text-only alternative" of this decade.  Until there are strong
> recommendations for how to make Canvas content accessible, there is a
> huge risk of unequal access to interesting and innovative content.
>
>  
>
> The Area Element
>
> It states that if an area does not have an href then it cannot be
> selected and thus does not require an alt attribute.  It is unclear how
> that would comply with other requirements for alternative text on
> images.  For example, imagine the areas in an image map represent rooms
> in a house, but only the kitchen, living room and bedroom can be
> selected, but there are also a bathroom, a dining room, and a library
> represented in the image, which are not presently active.  Not providing
> text representations of those rooms would be withholding information
> from a user who does not have access to the image.  This would be
> especially true if links from areas are dynamically generated.  It would
> seem that having an area's text representation appear and disappear,
> could be more disconcerting than having it always present, but with
> appropriate indicators of whether it is an active link or an inactive
> graphic.  Inactive areas could be kept out of the tab order though.
> Also, a means would have to be provided for areas with empty alt
> attributes from being placed in the tab order.  
>
>  
>
> Input Elements
>
> Extensive work will need to be done that the new elements have
> appropriate accessibility for users with disabilities, including
> keyboard/non-pointer-device accessibility, as well as appropriate
> indicators of states and attributes that impact how or whether a user
> can interact with that input element.  Although there could be great
> promise in having a consistent means of providing input elements,
> accessibility concerns will need to be taken into account when
> determining how user agents display that information to the user, and
> expose information to AT.
>
>  
>
> The Required Attribute
>
> The availability of this attribute could vastly improve the consistent
> accessibility of this information to users with disabilities.  However,
> for this to be true, work will need to be done to assure that user
> agents provide means to indicate the required state to all users,
> including those with disabilities, regardless of whether they are using
> AT.  Displaying consistent visual cues (that are (or can be made)
> non-color-dependent), as well as programmatic indication for AT will be
> necessary.  
>
>  
>
> The Menu Element
>
> Although there is great potential usefulness in the menu element, a lot
> of careful work will need to be done to assure that the variety of
> children, options, list items, command elements, etc., it can support
> are consistently accessible to users with disabilities across all
> available browsers.
>
>  
>
> Element level Focus APIs
>
> In this section, people are instructed to use CSS to hide the focus ring
> if they "find it unsightly".  There should be additional information
> letting them know that doing so can jeopardize accessibility for some
> people including those who can see the screen, but who also rely upon
> keyboard accessibility.  
>
>  
>
> Content Editable
>
> There is insufficient discussion of keyboard accessibility for this
> feature.  More needs to be provided beyond caret position and selection
> information.  This is also true for Document.designMode.  
>
>  
>
>      
>
>  
>
> Mia Lipner
>
> Section 508 Program and Management Analyst
>
> 415.400.4122
>
>  
>



--
Michael[tm] Smith
http://people.w3.org/mike/+