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April 2014 Standards Update

2014 April 30

New WCAG Conformance Requirements for @Alt on Images
Submitted by Geoff Freed

There have been lively discussions on various accessibility lists this month regarding new delivery methods for image descriptions.  In what may be a shock for some, WCAG 2.0 has relaxed its conformance requirements around the inclusion of @alt on images.  Authors may now not use @alt if descriptions are included in the <img> element through some other accessible method.  The method for determining what is called an accessible name is discussed in detail at  Accessible names include aria-labelledby, aria-label, @alt and @title; presumably aria-describedat will be added to that list when it becomes part of ARIA 1.1.

Note that this doesn’t mean that authors should stop using @alt on images.  In fact, authors should always use @alt unless there is a good reason not to do so.  DIAGRAM’s recommendations on providing image descriptions (e.g., those found in the Accessible Image Sample Book) are still valid, as are the other recommendations found elsewhere, such as NCAM’s Effective Practices for Description of Science Content Within DTBs or the W3C’s Techniques for Providing Useful Text Alternatives. The loosening of the @alt restriction in WCAG, however, provides authors with conforming alternatives that previously were not accepted as conforming.  There’s a good article from SSB Bart on this topic at

Elsevier Announces EPUB 3 Standard
“Book Business,” a mainstream publishing industry magazine, posted a press release announcing Elsevier’s decision to adopt EPUB3 as their standard format for books and journals going forward. Elsevier is one of the world’s largest publishers of academic journals and books. Notable in the press release is the mention of MathML and better accessibility as two of the main benefits of the move.  Many of you in the DIAGRAM community helped shape the conversations in the AAP working groups last year to make sure that accessibility was part of the conversation. Thank you for all your efforts to make sure that accessibility is incorporated into publishing standards for all.

Standards Working Group Update
The DIAGRAM Standards Working Group held its last quarterly meeting of the program year on April 14, 2014. Refer to the notes from this meeting on the Standards Working Group wiki for updates on EPUB 3.01 and EDUPUB. Please contact co-chairs George Kerscher and Mark Hakkinen if you would like more information.

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