Easier Access with HTML5
|Summary:||Study how authors use HTML to help HTML5 be more accessible more easily.|
|Proposed Grantee:||Ben Millard|
|Proposal started:||18th March 2008|
|Proposal revised:||21st May 2008|
|Estimated start date:||1st June 2008|
|Estimated end date:||1st December 2008|
Ben will collect numerous documents from the web and assess the authoring practices within them. He will compare this with the semantics and access features in HTML5. He will draw attention to any gaps and help develop realistic ways to fill them.
HTML is designed for access. Currently, few authors make the most of this. As the primary format for publishing web content, how authors use HTML affects access throughout the World Wide Web.
The elements and attributes of HTML give documents structure and semantics. Assistive devices use these to adapt documents to the needs of their users. But a legacy of presentational markup persists on the web. Elements are used for their appearance instead of their structure and semantics. When authors use incorrect elements and attributes, adaptation fails.
HTML elements are sometimes a near match for a specific use but the specification disallows it. For example, HTML4 defines
<kbd> as “Indicates text to be entered by the user.” Keyboard shortcuts are not “entering text” so using
<kbd> for Ctrl+T is disallowed. Presentational markup must be used for keyboard shortcuts to conform. HTML5 could redefine elements to allow such near matches, helping authors migrate from presentational to semantic markup.
Authors sometimes hack around bugs in specific products, including those which do adaptation. This is sometimes detrimental to better implemented products. Hacks with differing compromises counter previous hacks, adding to the legacy content problem.
HTML5 is an opportunity to make accessible documents easier to author.
Websites, like all commercial products, are built to a budget and a schedule. Professional authors have no time to investigate the mountains of information about web access. Making HTML accessible with simpler markup would make the best techniques clearer.
Filling the gaps in HTML must strike a balance:
- Let the elements and attributes be applied to more varied content.
- Water down the semantics until they are so generic as to be useless.
Similarly, smarter access features have competing considerations:
- Research-based algorithms can make lots more existing content natively accessible.
- More permissive algorithms risk false positives and false negatives.
- Complexity of specification.
- Interoperable and performant implementations.
Feeding my research into HTMLWG will help the process of specifying HTML semantics and features.
Smarter features in HTML5 will make better use of document semantics:
- Table header association algorithm will link headers cells to data cells more reliably while needing less markup.
- Document outline algorithm will find headings and sectioning elements to create a more accurate table of contents.
- Form labelling algorithm will associate labelling text with the corresponding form controls.
Examples in the specification will show scenarios relevant to what authors do. Simplified techniques will enable accessible documents to be written by people who aren’t specialists.
Work Plan and Deliverables
- Collect diverse web pages for each type of content by several methods:
- Daily browsing.
- Search results for random subjects.
- Television, radio, newspapers, billboards and other offline media.
- Friends, family and colleagues.
- Random selection from online directories, including but not limited to DMOZ.
- Suggestions sent to me for websites which are representative of a particular sector.
- Sites nominated by disabled people as being particularly good or bad.
- Qualitative analysis of each collected document:
- Determine what type of content is being marked up.
- Write brief, bullet-point analysis of what markup was used.
- Suggest what might be more appropriate.
- Quantitative analysis of collections:
- Popularity of techniques.
- Frequency of “near match” cases.
- Patterns in markup which could be used for smarter access features.
- Publish links to all documents with all analysis and statistics.
- Publish ‘early and often’ during the work for maximum openness and transparency.
- Analysis and statistics will be published about authoring trends for key types of web content in a cross-section of websites.
- HTML5 will enable pages to be accessible using simpler markup than was possible in HTML4.
- More existing content will become accessible in devices which implement HTML5 access features.
- The research will influence other specifications, guidelines and communities concerned with accessibility.
- Collections of Interesting Data Tables during 2007.
- Presented data table findings to HTMLWG.
- Created and managed an Unconference session on data table headers.
- Helped improve the data table header association algorithm in HTML5.
- Simplified a complex ARIA example with clever use of HTML4.
- Participated in Accessify Forum since 2005.
- Created websites professionally since 2005 as both self-employed and with sdesign1.
- Won a county-level award for accessibility of Calthorpe Park School’s website in 2007 and 2008.