HTML5 Super Friends (AccessComputing News - Jan 2010)

Wendy Chisholm, AccessComputing Staff

The next wave of HTML, called HTML5, is in development by the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). HTML5 is an important step for web accessibility, because it is the first time that people with disabilities have been included in the web language development process from the beginning. Two very different cultures are learning how to work together, and it's both exciting and frustrating.

Accessibility advocates are educating engineers about the technological needs of people with disabilities. Although the engineers can be hard to convince, when they "get it," they often come up with very cool solutions.

On the other hand, when they don't get it and want to move forward with something that is not accessible, it is frustrating. In the past, accessibility has been thrown out for the sake of progress. Once this happens, it is difficult to implement accessibility at a later stage of development.

With HTML5 going into the next development phase, a group of developers and designers from the web standards movement decided to meet to develop feedback for the HTML5 specification. For two days in early August, Dan Cederholm, Tantek Çelik, Jeremy Keith, Ethan Marcotte, Eric Meyer, Nicole Sullivan, Jeffrey Zeldman, and I gathered at Happy Cog Studios in New York City to talk about HTML5. This is a who's who of standards-based web development, and I was honored to be invited to such a powerhouse of a group!

We dubbed ourselves the HTML5 Super Friends and wrote the Super Friends Guide to HTML5 Hiccups as well as a statement that endorses the direction HTML5 is heading. Most of us have written our own blog posts about the issues and advantages we found in the specification. I list my concerns at

The reaction to our comments was good. We even appeared in an issue of CSSquirrel, an online comic strip that provides perspective on the politics of web design and standards development at

Recently, the HTML Working Group met for two days in Santa Clara, California to talk about some of the outstanding issues that need to be addressed before the HTML5 specification can move into the next phase. I attended one day and was happy to see good progress being made on some of the trickier accessibility issues. We aren't out of the woods yet, but the engineers seem open to most of our concerns. Keep your fingers crossed.