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Re: LongDesc for documents, not websites


From: Karlen Communications
Date: Apr 20, 2011 4:51AM

For PDF I suggest using the ability to attach documents to a PDF. I also
point people to the Wright State University/Dayton Art Institute project "A
Picture is worth 300 Words" which was a CSUN presentation.

Although created for artwork, the guidelines can be used to build a
framework for describing complex images in documents so that the
descriptions don't become essays themselves.

For PDF this lets the descriptions travel with the PDF which means that
people don't have to go looking for them. As someone who uses a screen
reader I will seldom go looking for a description of something on another
web site. I just figure that it isn't important enough to travel with the
document. I also suggest using a TXT file to house the description or a
plain vanilla Word document without a lot of formatting/formatting as
needed. Of course I'm not in school depending on access to a textbook.

The Alt Text for the image is something like "detailed description attached:
filename X." If the document author has used captions I refer to the figure
number in the filename. Depending on how many complex images there are in a
document I may have a detail document for each image or one file with all
descriptions formatted with headings for navigation.

For Word documents the only suggestion I have is creating the actual link to
the Appendices once the document has been approved. Again I hate having to
go somewhere else on a server or site to read details of complex images or
other information. That is my preference but it has made me think about how
to integrate everything so that it is easy to find for everyone.

I also suggest that if someone is not going to use the Notes area of
PowerPoint that this area be used to provide the more detailed information
about an image on a slide. This is part of the decision making process in
determining how the PowerPoint document will be distributed and what types
of content are accessible or not given the distribution methods.

My PDF exploration in figuring out a solution for this type of content came
about when trying to make Visio based PDF accessible. I had a huge process
chart with tons of acronyms and abbreviations and the attachment of a plain
Word document with expanded acronyms and abbreviations made the chart easier
for everyone to understand.

Now your post has me considering a solution for this in Word. <smile>

Cheers, Karen

-----Original Message-----
[mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ] On Behalf Of Bevi Chagnon |
Sent: April-19-11 11:32 PM
To: WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: [WebAIM] LongDesc for documents, not websites

This question comes up every time I teach my 508 classes to government
What’s the best way to handle Alt-text for complex graphics in MS Word and
PDF documents (not websites)?

My government clients have very complex graphics such as charts, graphs,
maps, technical drawings, floor plans, and flow charts. Standard Alt-text
isn’t sufficient to describe the details of the graphics.

The LongDesc attribute doesn’t work for these documents for these reasons:

1) The attribute requires that my clients know what the final website
location of the LongDesc webpage is, and this is impossible for them to know
while they are creating the M.S. Word or PDF file.

2) There is a lengthy approval process for all documents (usually months
away) so it’s not possible to know where the document will live on a file
server, website, or intranet while it’s under construction.

3) The I.T. department usually controls where the final document is stored,
not my clients who are making the document, and I.T. will not tell them 2-3
months in advance where that location will be. (Note, Federal security
requirements often affect this, too.)

4) There are often hundreds of these complex graphics in a document.

Writing the detailed description into the narrative of the document often
doesn’t work. The description alone can take up an entire page of narration
for very complex graphics, and therefore a long narration impairs sighted
readers (they’ll quickly lose interest in the document).

One idea we had was to repeat the complex graphics at the end of the
document along with a detailed narrative. In the main body of the document,
the graphic can have a normal text link to the back where the detailed
narrative is located.

Main body of the document <Figure>
Pie chart shows growth of x-y during 2010. <live link to the back page>Text
description of this chart is at the end of this document.

There are two significant drawbacks to this method:

1) It's very time consuming and impractical to construct this, especially
given the immense number of revisions that a government document goes
through before it is finalized. The live text links will eventually get out
of whack during the normal editing and revision process.

2) In these graphic-intensive documents, it could easily add a hundred or
more pages to the document because the graphics will appear twice, once in
the main body of the text and again in the back section with the detailed

Any suggestions? Remember, these are Word and PDF documents, not websites.
Thanks in advance for your words of wisdom!

--Bevi Chagnon

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