What is HTML 5?

HTML 5 is an evolution of HyperText Markup Language (HTML) standard and is designed to provide structure to content. Unlike previous versions of HTML, HTML 5 includes new features such as: better integration of video, the ability to drag-and-drop graphical elements, edit pages and interpret location information such as GPS tracking. 

The standard is still under development by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and a draft specification of HTML 5 has been released.

General benefits

HTML 5 contains a number of additional APIs which provide extra functionality over traditional HTML development, including:

  • 2D drawing
  • Timed media playback
  • Document editing
  • Drag and drop
  • Cross-document messaging
  • Browser history management

Potential accessibility benefits of HTML 5

There are a number of potential accessibility benefits to HTMl 5, including:

  • Standardised video - HTML 5 has the potential to deliver video that does not need a plug-in like Flash, Real or Windows Media. This can help maintain consistency when creating and implementing captions and audio description.
  • Accessibility of cloud applications - HTML 5 should make it easier to apply WCAG 2.0 criteria to cloud applications and make them more accessible by standardising the way web-based applications work.
  • Integration of WAI-ARIA - WAI-ARIA gives specific instructions to assistive technology products that are used by people with disabilities, enabling these products to better work with web applications. WAI-ARIA is not a specific HTML 5 feature, but it should be used together with HTML 5.

Current issues with HTML 5 development

While HTML offers great promise for accessibility, there are current restrictions in its implementation. These are due to:

  • HTML 5 is currently a draft standard and will continue to evolve, making it difficult to currently develop for it
  • Inconsistencies between web browsers in their implementation of HTML 5
  • Varying levels of interpretation and support amongst assistive technology products
  • Competing video formats make it unlikely that the full accessibility benefits of HTML 5-based video playback will be widely implemented

Further information

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