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July 2013 Standards Update

2013 July 28
by Amaya Webster

DIAGRAM Standards Working Group recommends aria-describedy
Submitted by Geoff Freed

The HTML5 Image Description Extension (also known as the longdesc extension specification) was recently published as a last-call working draft.  The W3C will collect comments and bugs on the extension until September 16, 2013. Visit this link to contribute your comments.

Elsewhere in the world of image descriptions, the DIAGRAM Standards Working Group has voted to recommend the use of aria-describedby to EPUB authors as a way to provide off-page descriptions until a new property, aria-describedat, is added to the ARIA specification.  aria-describedby can associate off-page descriptions via a hidden element, such as an iframe or <div>, both of which can accessible to screen readers. It can also be used to associate on-page descriptions, which more closely follows its original, specified form.  Once fully specified and available as part of ARIA 1.1, aria-describedat will offer the capability to directly point to on- or off-page descriptions such as ID or URI references. In addition, authors will be able to apply it to any element, not just to images, whereas the longdesc attribute can only be applied to images. See DIAGRAM’s updated recommendations for adding long descriptions to content by visiting the Standards and Practices page on the DIAGRAM web site.

AAP takes aggressive steps toward EPUB 3 standard
In their press release this month, The Association of American Publishers announced an important initiative to engage a wide spectrum of partners to accelerate the universal adoption of the EBUB 3 format for digital books. If successful, this would be an important step in the direction of image accessibility in digital books. The press release lists the five most important benefits of broad adoption of EPUB 3, including this one: “Through EPUB 3’s innovative assistive features, people who are blind or have other print disabilities will have access to the same titles, at the same time, as all readers.”

In terms of timeline, the AAP is moving quickly. A daylong workshop to “define and prioritize actionable projects” will be held on September 10, 2013 in New York City. In the meantime, some publishers “anticipate introducing large numbers of EPUB 3 files into the marketplace beginning First Quarter 2014,” according to the press release. Members of the DIAGRAM Standards Working Group are actively involved in discussions.

Standards Working Group update
Working Group members should watch their in-boxes for an invitation to the next meeting, due to take place in August. In the meantime, see the notes from past meetings here. Please contact co-chairs George Kerscher and Mark Hakkinen if you have ideas to add to the next meeting agenda.

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