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December 2012 Standards Update

2012 December 31

Standards Working Group

The DIAGRAM Standards Working Group met on Monday December 10, 2012. Topics included:

  • crosswalk mapping from APIP to the DIAGRAM Content Model
  • updates on W3C longdesc and describedAt (see related article below)
  • tentative plans for meeting at CSUN
  • eTernity initiative for educational textbook standards

Meeting notes are posted on the Community site here:  [Note: you must be a registered member of the DIAGRAM site to view the notes. Please contact Julie Noblitt at if you would like registration assistance.]  This group is co-chaired by George Kerscher and Mark Hakkinen.


Updates on @longdesc and describedAt
Compiled by Geoff Freed from a discussion between members of the DIAGRAM standards group
Status Update
The @longdesc extension specification for HTML5 ( is still awaiting a status update to first public working draft (FPWD).  The primary reason for the delay has been objections from a few members of the accessibility task force.  With luck, these objections will be resolved shortly after the holiday and the draft will be moved forward.  Note that the basic idea is to get @longdesc specified quickly and thus put back quickly into HTML5, thereby returning to authors a specified (and perhaps “approved”) method to deliver long descriptions.  (In fact, as soon as @longdesc is moved forward as a FPWD, it will be officially removed from the HTML5 list of obsolete features.)   *Then* the work will begin on new features, such as applicability to non-img elements.  To quote Charles McCathie Nevile, the editor of the extension spec:  “The idea of this is to complete an extension specification as fast as possible with minimum fuss. So it merely reincorporates the longdesc attribute of HTML4 for the image element, as implemented” (see

The timeline to finish the longdesc extension spec is approximately one year, although the bulk of the work will be done probably by summer 2013, with W3C process taking up the rest of the time.  On the other hand, aria-describedat– which, if it is actually pursued would be included in ARIA 1.1– would take about four years (end of 2016, which would align it with HTML5.1; see  The ARIA 1.1 FPWD would be ready around the end of 2013 and describedat would be included in that draft, however.  The general vibe these days (and this is my opinion, not the position of the task force or working group) is that describedat might not be a good option, and that we should be seeking a solution that lives in HTML5, not in a separate specification (i.e., ARIA).  In fact, some new alternatives to @longdesc are being floated by some members of the task force.  We’ll include more information about these in the January newsletter.

DIAGRAM Standards Working Group Discussion
In the DIAGRAM standards working group, we are discussing our options regarding long descriptions and HTML5 but also the ramifications for EPUB 3.1.  Given that the IDPF moves at a faster pace than the W3C, and also given that EPUB takes its accessibility cues from HTML5, the W3C’s timelines will be considered rather slow for the inclusion of @longdesc or an equivalent/improvement in EPUB 3.1. EPUB 3.1 may be finished at the end of 2013, so it’s possible that we could sneak @longdesc into 3.1 directly even though it’s still just an early draft.  Then we might be able to live with its instability and shortcomings for three years or so until a more permanent solution is devised. On the other hand, inventing @epub:describedAt would provide a richer, potentially more useful solution but would require forking away from HTML5, the value of which has yet to be determined.

Markus Gylling also points out that for some producers, using inline descriptions is not unthinkable.  The use of, say, aria-describedBy + @hidden to provide an on-page but hidden description might be viable, if only as a mid-term mediator that would help avoid having to define a new EPUB attribute (that is, @epub-describedAt).


News You Can Use: More about LRMI
Given the importance of the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) and related initiatives such as and the Learning Registry, followers of this newsletter might be interested in the following resources. Many thanks, as always, to Gerardo Capiel for finding these gems:

* Two good slide presentations on LRMI and Learning Registry:

* Good post on LRMI and finding edu resources:

* Short, funny article about the significance of LRMI, Learning Registry, and SLI:

* Free one-day LRMI Workshop at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA on January 12, 2013:

    Agenda includes:

    • LRMI project background and current status
    • Discussion of existing and emerging standards, as well as their role in tagging and identifying instructional resources
    • How the LRMI relates to other initiatives, including, the SLC, and the Learning Registry
    • Review of specific use cases for LRMI metadata
    • Walk-through of the tagging process and search demonstration of LRMI-tagged content
    • Exclusive early access to a prototype copy of an LRMI and Learning Registry Implementation Guide being developed by AEP, SLC and Educational Systemics

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