WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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From: Jared Smith
Date: Sep 24, 2010 1:06PM

On Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 11:02 AM, John Foliot wrote:

> Does WebAIM believe that LONGDESC should be dropped from HTML5?

As John notes, there is much controversy surrounding the longdesc
attribute. We've had discussions about this and there are varied
opinions even internal to WebAIM. Despite there being arguments for
dropping longdesc, it is our opinion that longdesc should NOT be made
obsolete in HTML5.

I've made some minor updates to our longdesc article
(http://webaim.org/techniques/images/longdesc) to clarify our
recommendations for its use.

Longdesc is not an optimal approach, but it is an accepted approach
and one that is codified as an acceptable and recommended technique in
international and U.S. laws and guidelines, including Section 508 and
WCAG 2.0. While it does not have widespread use and is often misused,
obsoleting it in HTML5 is not a viable solution - and is one that
would cause confusion and result in mixed messages.

There is no question that we need better methods for providing longer
image descriptions. Like many things in accessibility, we certainly
need better support in browser and assistive technologies. The HTML5
working groups and those in the accessibility field are bright people
- the brightest of people. We're capable of coming up with something
that will work and will work better. But as of right now, longdesc
provides functionality and accessibility that is not available in any
other way. For a page that is fully accessible and compliant today to
suddenly be flagged as non-compliant and as using a non-compliant, yet
widely recommended accessibility technique simply due to transitioning
that page to an HTML5 DOCTYPE certainly goes against the
backwards-compatibility and interoperability objectives of HTML5.

Jared Smith