SVG – making interactive graphics accessible

Presented at 8:00am in Cotton Creek II on Wednesday, November 16, 2016.



  • Charles McCathie Nevile, Yandex / ???????

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format:
  • Expertise Level: Not provided
  • Type of session: General Conference


SVG brings interactive graphics to HTML in all modern-ish browsers. It can offer much more for accessibility than an alt tag and a couple of labels. What really works, and what is still being worked on?


SVG - Scalable Vector Graphics - has been around for almost two decades, and is now part of HTML 5 and of all modern browsers. As the name suggests it is a way to produce pictures that are scalable, made from vectors (mathematician-speak for "lines").

Crucially, the lines, and the objects in the picture, are described in a similar way to pieces of an HTML document. This means pictures can be built up with structure - and that structure can be made available to people in different ways, to enable far more accessibility than traditional picture formats.

SVG is also interactive - it does the kind of things that used to be done in Flash - but again, accessibly. Because it is an open w3C standard it works directly in browsers, it doesn't rely on particular plugins or platforms.

Which all sounds great, and is somewhat true. So - How does SVG work? - What features make it accessible? - How to use them? - What really works, what is being worked on, and what is just hype?


  1. Basics of how SVG looks and works
  2. How to use key features to make accessible SVG graphics
  3. What doesn't work as well as it should, and what to do about it

Disability Areas

Cognitive/Learning, Mobility, Vision

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Alternate Format, Assistive Technology, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Charles McCathie Nevile

Chaals is a member of the CTO group at Russian Internet giant Yandex. As a long-time participant at W3C he is among other sins a co-chair of the Web Platform Working Group responsible for HTML and many associated APIs.

He has been working on and off with SVG accessibility since early last century. He co-wrote the original reference in 2001, and hopes it will soon truly be obsolete. He has also led the W3C's HTML accessibility Task Force for its last two years, before folding accessibility work into the mainstream of the HTML development process over the last year.

Living in Spain and working in Russia he gets to see how a lot of the world does things. It turns out that the answer is "differently".