More video accessibility work

It’s already old news, but I am really excited about having started a new part-time contract with Mozilla to continue pushing the HTML5 video and audio elements towards accessibility.

My aim is two-fold: firstly to improve the HTML5 audio and video tags with textual representations, and secondly to hook up the Ogg file format with these accessibility features through an Ogg-internal text codec.

The textual representation that I am after is closely based on the itext elements I have been proposing for a while. They are meant to be a simple way to associate external subtitle/caption files with the HTML5 video and audio tags. I am initially looking at srt and DFXP formats, because I think they are extremes of a spectrum of time-aligned text formats from simple to complex. I am preparing a specification and javascript demonstration of the itext feature and will then be looking for constructive criticism from accessibility, captioning, Web, video and any other expert who cares to provide input. My hope is to move the caption discussion forward on the WHATWG and ultimately achieve a cross-browser standard means for associating time-aligned text with media streams.

The Ogg-internal solution for subtitles – and more generally for time-aligned text – is then a logical next step towards solving accessibility. From the many discussions I have had on the topic of how best to associate subtitles with video I have learnt that there is a need for both: external text files with subtitles, as well as subtitles that are multiplexed with the media into a single binary fie. Here, I am particularly looking at the Kate codec as a means of multiplexing srt and DFXP into Ogg.

Eventually, the idea is to have a seamless interface in the Web Browser for dealing with subtitles, captions, karaoke, timed metadata, and similar time-aligned text. The user interaction should be identical no matter whether the text comes from within a binary media file or from a secondary Web resource. Once this seamless interface exists, hooking up accessibility tools such as screen readers or braille devices to the data should in theory be simple.

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