Help keep accessibility and semantics in HTML

This is a call to action directed at all standardistas and accessibilitistas. If you think accessibility and semantics are important and should be improved in the next version of HTML, you need to act.

What is currently going on in the W3C HTML Working Group is very disappointing and something I never expected to see when I joined it. I was naive enough to think that everybody joining the HTML WG would be doing so out of a desire to improve the Web. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case:

  • There are people who argue against the value of semantics and in favour of keeping or even adding more presentational markup.
  • In the HTML 5/Web Applications 1.0 Working Draft, accessibility features such as the summary, headers, and axis attributes (which are used to make data tables more accessible) have been removed with no explanation.
  • The general knowledge of accessibility in the Working Group is surprisingly limited.
  • Some of the loudest voices are browser vendors who seem to have an extreme phobia of doing anything to discourage the use of invalid and inaccessible tag soup.

All in all, my impression so far is that unless things change, the next version of HTML will do nothing to improve the Web. All it will do is make things easier for browser vendors and ignorant web developers. The rest of us may be better off sticking to HTML 4.01 Strict.

We need to change that if there is to be any chance of cleaning up the mess that the Web currently is.

I do what little I can to argue, but it takes more time than I have at my disposal. I also lack the rhetorical (and English) skills needed to respond to the dismissive and belittling arguments that meet anyone who opposes the majority view.

If you have an interest in improving the accessibility of HTML, want more semantic and less presentational markup, and are good at arguing your case, please consider applying for HTML Working Group membership by following the Instructions for joining the HTML Working Group. Do it now. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to change the unfortunate direction things are going in.


Posted on May 7, 2007 in HTML 5, Accessibility, (X)HTML, Web Standards