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November 2012 Standards Update

2012 November 30

Standards Working Group kicks off

The inaugural meeting of the DIAGRAM Standards Working Group was held on Monday November 26, 2012. The focus of this group is to play a leadership role in advocating for standards that support image accessibility with an emphasis on ebook standards and the harmonization of image accessibility approaches across standards.That will mean identifying, monitoring, and bridging communication among standards bodies such as W3C (HTML5, SVG, MathML), IDPF (EPUB3), DAISY, IMS (AfA and APIP), etc. Key in this effort will be to make sure that the DIAGRAM Content Model keeps apace with these standards as they evolve. Full meeting notes will be posted to the Community site.

The excitement in the group for this work was palpable, with all deciding to meet more frequently than quarterly to keep apace with developments in the industry. The next meeting will take place on December 10, 2012. Contact co-chairs George Kerscher or Mark Hakkinen for more information.


Happy fluffy bunny planet or edtech death star? LRMI, Learning Registry, and SLI
During the Standards Working Group meeting this week, there was much discussion of LRMI and Learning Registry. For those who would like to read more about these important emerging standards, here is another great article find by Gerardo Capiel. Written in plain English about the significance of LRMI, Learning Registry, and SLI, this short, funny article is a must-read. (You have to read all the way to the end to find out what an edtech death star is.)


Good news from W3C about @longdesc
by Geoff Freed
Editor’s note: for context about the significance of the @longdesc attribute, see the Geoff Freed’s August 2012 posting about HTML5 at

The extension specification for @longdesc will probably be voted into PWD (public working draft) status at the end of the month.  The current version (an editor’s draft largely written by Charles McCathie Nevile) is available at  As you’ll see, it still has holes and placeholders, but there’s enough info there to give you an idea of where things are headed.  Assuming it enters the PWD stage, the next step is for the accessibility task force and other working groups at the WAI to start filling the holes, collecting arguments and beating it all into an agreeable state.  I’m planning to contribute some ideas and, I hope, a use case or two.  This all could happen reasonably quickly, but keep in mind that speed is a flexible concept at the W3C. The Standards Working Group is following developments closely to bridge communication between standards groups as much as possible on this topic.

The requirements section is worth reading. Most of these items (below) are not new but this will be the first time these things have been formally stated in a spec.



  • No visual encumbrance It must be possible to provide a description for an image without any visual encumbrance on the page.
  • Structured Markup It must be possible to include rich markup (e.g. HTML5) in the description of the image.
  • Inline It must be possible to associate a description in the body of a page with an image in that page.
  • Reuse It must be possible to re-use a single description for multiple occurrences of an image.
  • Maintenance It must be simple to maintain a library of images and descriptions for dynamic assembly, or dis-assembly and re-assembly, of content.
  • Discoverability It must be simple for a user agent to automatically discover a description provided for a given image.
  • Optional consumption A user must be able to choose not to read the long description of a given image.
  • Simple return A user must be able to return from the description to the image.
  • Backwards Compatibility It should be possible to use existing tools and techniques to associate an image with its description.


Good news about @longdesc from NVDA
by Geoff Freed
The folks at NVDA, the free, open-source screen reader for Windows ( have posted a note on the bug-tracking list that indicates that NVDA now will support descriptions delivered by the longdesc attribute.  For those who like to play, download the latest snapshot build of NVDA at  (#5608, as of today).  Install and you will find that the new feature does, in fact, work:  when NVDA lands on an image that has @longdesc, it says “graphic, has long description” and then reads the @alt (if present).  Pressing the enter/return key (Firefox only; if you’re using IE you must press NVDA key + d) opens the long description in a new browser window or tab.  Nice.  This is nearly identical to JAWS’ behavior, by the way.


The future of image search
Many thanks to Gerardo Capiel for drawing our attention to a very interesting article in the November 19, 2012 issue of the New York Times entitled, “For Web Images, Creating New Technology to Seek and Find”. As this article demonstrates, the work we are doing here at the DIAGRAM Center has applications far beyond accessibility. In the same way that closed captioning became a must-have for all of us who watch television in public places, image accessibility online will become critical for anyone who uses the Internet.


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