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First impressions: comments on full version of Trace guidelines

From: Jason White <jasonw@ariel.ucs.unimelb.EDU.AU>
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 1997 09:06:01 +1100 (AEDT)
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.SUN.3.95.971103083744.25744D-100000@ariel.ucs.unimelb.EDU.AU>
While reading the full text of the Trace Centre's guidelines, version 8.0,
the following comments came to mind. As the subject line of this message
indicates, these are only first impressions, based on a quick review of
the document.

1. All of the comments which I made with respect to the quick summary of
the guidelines, apply to the full document as well.

2. Terminology: as noted in the HTML specification, there is an important
distinction to be made between two related terms which both refer to
aspects of markup, namely, "tag" and "element". The term "element", as I
understand it, refers to the entire construct, including its start tag,
its content, and, if relevant, its end tag. The term "tag" refers either
to the start tag or end tag. The Trace guidelines consistently use the
word "tag" (as in "tags affected"). This usage should be checked for
correctness, and the word "element" substituted in those cases in which
the demands of precision so require it.

Also, the term "screen reader" is used throughout the document to refer
not only to conventional screen reading software, but also to assistive
technologies that are actually "aware" of the markup of the HTML document
and can process style sheets. Daniel Dardailler's dichotomy of screen
readers as contrasted with "markup aware" access agents or assistive
technologies, is I think an important distinction, as it marks the
division between the predominant solutions of today and those that will be
relied upon in the future. T.V. Raman's Emacspeak is no doubt an excellent
example of the latter approach. Thus, the terminology used in the
guidelines could be reviewed in this respect.

3. Language and directionality: investigations should be conducted into
whether HTTP headers will provide sufficient information to a "markup
aware" braille or speech access product concerning the language in which
each HTML document is written, or whether authors should be advised to
include the HTML 4.0 LANG attribute in the header of each document. In any
case, authors should be advised to use the LANG attribute whenever a
phrase or passage of text within the document is written in a different
language from the main body of the text. Both speech synthesizers and
braille translation software need to apply language-specific rules.

4. Image maps: the last example of an accessible image map takes advantage
of the OBJECT element and uses the TITLE attribute of each anchor to
convey a textual alternative for each active region of the map. In this
illustration however, the anchor elements have no end tags, and nor do
they have any content. This seems to be incorrect. In the DTD fragment
given in section 13.2 of the HTML 4.0 specification, both the start and
end tags of the A element are marked as required.

Also, the OBJECT element enables quite sophisticated long descriptions,
containing embedded links, to be written as the content of an OBJECT. It
was this flexibility which persuaded the WAI working group to argue
persistently, and ultimately with success, for the retention of the SHAPES
attribute in OBJECT and the COORDS attribute of the anchor element. The
guidelines should reflect the full potential of OBJECT to provide fully
formatted long descriptions, rather than just a list of links such as can
be created by the ALT attribute of AREA.

5. Once the final HTML 4.0 specification has been released, all references
in the guidelines to specific HTML elements should be linked to the
corresponding definitions in the specification.

6. In general, it is important to emphasise that the guidelines are
excellent as they stand, and it is evident that much effort has been
expeded in their development and maintenance.
Received on Sunday, 2 November 1997 17:06:24 GMT

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