Expert Markup Handlers for AT: A Proposal From Open A11y (Draft 4)

Open A11y Proposal: A Standard to Enable AT Interaction with Specialized Content

This Open A11y panel will discuss, and gather additional requirements for its proposed interface specification to facilitate plugins to AT for enhancing knowledge domain accessibility.
Session Level:
60 Minute session
Chair: Dr. Neil Soiffer, Design Science, Inc.
  • Vladimir Bulatov, View Plus Technologies
  • Pete Brunet, IBM
  • Shawn Djernes, Assistive Technology Specialist, Nebraska Commission for the Blind
  • Gregory Rosmaita, Vice-Chair, Open Accessibility
  • Janina Sajka, Chair, Open Accessibility


Generalized content markup (such as HTML) is complimented by markup specifications that facilitate more semantically precise content markup.
Examples of specialized, semantically precise markup include MathML and
MusicXML. Assistive technology (AT) typically handles generalized content
markup, but does not know about specialized markup. Because of this, users of
AT are unable to access or navigate specialized markup effectively.

The Open A11y Expert Handlers group is exploring a standardized plug-in mechanism for AT software. The goal of this plug-in standard is to allow AT software to take advantage of expert software that understands specialized markup. This plug-in standard will allow the expert software to provide enhanced, semantically rich access to specialized markup so that AT can properly render (visually, aurally, and/or tactilely) and help users navigate the semantic meaning encoded in the specialized markup, however that specialized markup is encountered, e.g. in the context of a word processor document, a DAISY book, or a web page.

The Open A11y Expert Handlers SIG has gathered use cases and developed
requirements for proposed plugin specifications covering:

  • Braille
  • Speech Input & Output
  • Magnification
  • Alternative Input
  • Content Navagability

In this session, the panel will explain its work to date and invite comments on
its work from the audience. A comparison with existing specialized markup
assistive technology will be presented briefly as well in order to illustrate
the need for the platform and toolkit neutral plugin mechanism Open A11y