W3C Control To Major TomWednesday, February 23rd, 2011
In the past I’ve made it fairly clear that I disagree with a lot of the decisions that HTML5 editor Ian Hickson has made in the past, such as the movement of the WHATWG version of HTML5 into Last Call (well before the W3C has done so, creating an oddball situation where arguably the spec exists in two different states). I felt that he was making a decision to move the spec forward to meet an arbitrary timetable, and not because it was mature enough to deserve that state.
Now that the WHATWG has gone onto its version-free HTML Utopia, leaving the W3C to make sure there’s a benchmark for browser vendors to compare against with what us mere mortals are still calling HTML5, I had hoped that at the very minimum we could rely on a standard that would properly address all the issues before declaring itself an adult.
I was wrong.
Accessibility is an issue that gets me worked up at times. While observing the various battles in the mailing lists of the W3C, it becomes clear that often those most aware of good practices for accessibility are given the least amount of attention by decision makers. Right now we’re witnessing the W3C’s chairs pushing for HTML5 to move to Last Call while ignoring a massive lump of requested data about an accessibility issue.
AKA: They’re moving the spec forward without addressing existing, outstanding issues.
Today’s comic highlights my opinions on that.
It seems that as a result we’re going to end up with a standard that will only address best practice for accessibility as some sort of later patch. This is a load of crap.
For some reason, several smart people think the longdesc attribute is hard to use. So hard to use that we’d best not even bother keeping it in HTML5 as a means to provide alternate text for images to sight-challenged web users.
I’m going to tell you how to do it in a detailed fashion, and you can decide if it’s hard: 1. Put a longdesc attribute on your image with a value that points to a url of a page with a detailed description of the image. 2. At that destination, write the description.
Pretty hard stuff, right? I don’t know if you can remember all that.
This culminated last August as Issue 30, where the working group chairs decided to leave longdesc out due to a lack of data, and they encouraged people to feel free to get more data and approach them again.
In fact, I quote:
This issue can be reopened if new information come up. Examples of possible relevant new information include: use cases that specifically require longdesc, evidence that correct usage is growing rapidly and that that growth is expected to continue, or widespread interoperable implementation.
Laura Carlson took them at their word, creating a research document with over 150 examples harvested from the “wild” and compiled into several use cases, along with relevant local laws and policies from governmental and corporate entities using the attribute.
Armed with a treasure trove of the requested data, she asked the chairs to re-0pen the issue to consider it before Last Call.
Sam Ruby, W3C HTML5 Co-Chair, says “Thanks for all the data. I know I asked for it. But no. Focus on other important stuff instead. Ha ha.” (That might be a bit flavored of a paraphrasing…)
I couldn’t help but read into that an unspoken “Addressing the needs of blind people should take a back seat to getting the spec out the door.”
Class act, guys.