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Subject: How does DITA rate for Accessibility?

While discussing an invitation to liaise with a new workshop on
accessibility, I asked the general question, "How is DITA certifying to
best practices in accessibility and localization?"  This note introduces a
thread on the topic of Accessibility in particular.

Accessible information not only fulfills mandated requirements for
information deliverables, it is also plain good practice that takes into
consideration all users of your products.  DITA strives to meet the known
requirements of:
   W3C Accessibility
   IBM and other corporate accessibility initiatives
   Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act

Unlike the case for XHTML, DITA's accessibility features rely on output
processing to minimize the amount of direct authoring to introduce IDs and
special links for navigation in screen readers.  Here is a partial list of
the intended architecture for enabling accessible output.

   The core language provides the <alt> content element for the <image>,
   and the <desc> elements for <object>, <table>, and <fig>  to ensure that
   accessible descriptions can be written with rich text content.
   Image has a longdescref attribute to allow pointing to alternate
   Table has a rowheader attribute to indicate row-major headings instead
   of the usual column-major format for headings. Output transforms
   configure the header links for navigation accordingly.
   Output transforms generate table navigation using header-to-cell
   attribute-based links in support of W3C accessibility guidelines.
   Output transforms generate D-links for non-text objects. The transforms
   also generate longdescription alternate content/links from descriptive
   text, as authored according to guidelines by writers.
   ... (more can be said here)

In addition, good authoring for accessible content involves following
authoring guidelines for these special types of content:
   Image Maps:
   Graphs and Charts:
   Syntax Diagrams:

In addition, these are not directly DITA markup/output issues, but common
components of many types of Web-based UA.  Good practices with these
components can augment the accessibility of DITA deliverables using these
   Cascading Style Sheets (CSS):

The description for these guidelines remains to be written. Anyone is
welcome to follow up on individual items.

Don Day
Chair, OASIS DITA Technical Committee
IBM Lead DITA Architect
Email: dond@us.ibm.com
11501 Burnet Rd. MS9033E015, Austin TX 78758
Phone: +1 512-838-8550
T/L: 678-8550

"Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
 Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"
   --T.S. Eliot

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