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Re: Screen-reader behaviour

From: Philip Taylor (Webmaster) <P.Taylor@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 18:28:17 +0100
Message-ID: <46D6FE31.9080407@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
To: "Gregory J. Rosmaita" <oedipus@hicom.net>
CC: HTML Working Group <public-html@w3.org>, wai-xtech@w3.org



Gregory J. Rosmaita wrote:
> i will speak to what i personally know, and hope that others using other 
> set ups will do the same

[...]

> i hope this helps answer your question, phil -- if not, ask again!

Many thanks, Gregory.  A very detailed answer indeed, and
most informative, but perhaps because of the detail I'm
still uncertain as to one point.  Suppose that, within
a single document, I have instances of book titles, ship's
names, scientific names, and foreign words and phrases,
all of which are conventionally indicated in printed
English by the use of italics.  None of these are
sufficiently widespread for them to justify a unique
element within a specialised markup language such as HTML,
and because of the non-extensible nature of HTML 5 [1],
I can't create nonce-elements [2] such as <book-title>,
<ships-name>, <Linnaean-binomial> and so on.  The obvious
alternative appears to be to mark up each of these
using the closest available element (<span>, <em> or <i> :
each has its pros and cons), and then to indicate the actual
variant through the |class| attribute, as in

	<span class="Book-title">The Quare Fellow</span>
	<em class="Linnaean-binomial">Lagopus hyperboreus</em>
	<i class="Loan-word">Zeitgeist</i>

I have always assumed (somewhat naively !) that such markup might
be of help to those relying on screen readers, but if I understand
your answer correctly, this is not the case (at least for JAWS).

If that is so, how might both the HTML language and AT evolve
in such a way that nice distinctions such as these can be
made more accessible to users of AT ?  Until such evolution
occurs, it would seem that the best hope lies with the use
pseudo-elements such as :before and :after [3] from CSS, but how
well is CSS 2 supported by JAWS and similar AT systems ?

Philip TAYLOR
--------
[1] Dialects of HTML up to and including HTML 4.01 were
	all SGML-based, and therefore one could define a
	custom DTD should one wish to use elements other
	than those pre-defined.  Even if such elements
	were not afforded any special treatment by normal
	browsers, the ability to use nonce-elements was
	beneficial from the perspective of semantic markup.

	HTML 5, as currently proposed, appears to lack
	this mechanism for user-defined extensions, something
	which I for one feel is not only very serious omission
	but also a a major step backwards.

[2] http://www.answers.com/topic/nonce-word

[3] http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2/selector.html#before-and-after
Received on Thursday, 30 August 2007 17:28:39 GMT

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