July 2012 Standards Update
An update from Geoff Freed of NCAM:
Although there has been no change in the status of @longdesc in HTML5 this month, the HTML5 working group at the W3C is expected to issue a survey soon that will assess the membership’s thoughts on the use of two ARIA properties — aria-describedby and aria-hidden — to serve as new methods to deliver long descriptions and possibly take the place of longdesc (and potentially other solutions). aria-describedby and aria-hidden are two useful properties, but they do not necessarily satisfy the needs of bind or visually impaired users when it comes to delivering image descriptions. For example:
- authors cannot programmatically associate these properties with images;
- screen readers won’t automatically identify or associate an aria-describedby description as a valid image description;
- screen readers always read aloud the contents of aria-describedby, whether or not it’s hidden. On the other hand, screen readers give the user the option to listen to a longdesc.
We hope to have more news next month about this activity.
Also note that a new discussion has begun on the HTML5 list regarding a new adaptive-image element. This element doesn’t necessarily affect the delivery of image descriptions, but it would affect the delivery of images to the multitude of devices that we all use to access online content. DIAGRAM participants may therefore find the discussion useful. The bug containing the initial discussion itself can be found at https://www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/show_bug.cgi?id=18384 , but the proposal for this new element is at http://www.w3.org/community/respimg/wiki/Picture_Element_Proposal . The W3C is also hosting a community group to further develop the idea: http://www.w3.org/community/respimg/ .
As EPUB continues to transform digital publishing, one spec that is gaining attention is “Fixed-layout.” As the IDPF notes, although EPUB acknowledges that “content presentation should adapt to the user rather than the user having to adapt to a particular representation of content,” content creators who desire more control are adopting fixed layout presentations. In guidelines issued in March, IDPF defined a set of metadata to express fixed layout behaviors in EPUB 3. The IDPF also agreed to start an ad-hoc group for IDPF members to create charter proposals for one or more working groups for advanced/hybrid fixed layout.
As publishers look to fixed layout to exercise more control over the display and rendering of content, this space in between fully adaptable content and fully locked down content is one to watch.