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ASCII art and OBJECT (was Re: Comments on WAI guidelines)

From: John T. Whelan <whelan@physics.utah.edu>
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 09:12:15 -0600
Message-Id: <199809101512.JAA35835@einstein.physics.utah.edu>
To: chisholm@trace.wisc.edu, whelan@physics.utah.edu
Cc: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
>>>><OBJECT DATA="cow.txt" TYPE="text/x-ascii-art" TITLE="drawing of a cow">
>>>yes, this is another interesting way to do this.
>>	Although only useful if agreement is reached on the MIME type
>>and browser makers are aware of it.

>According to RFC1521 [1] ("MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions)
>Part One: Mechanisms for Specifying and Describing the Format of Internet
>Message Bodies") there are already several subtypes of the MIME type
>"text."  One of these is "plain" which refers to unformatted text.
>"Richtext" is another subtype, but from the definition given in RFC1341
>[2], richtext refers to SGML like text with a DTD.  

	Especially relevant in this context is the text/html subtype,
which one would expect screen readers to have a crack at.  (There was
a debate on www-html recently about the use of text/html OBJECTs, but
I think the consensus is that it's an independent document rather than
a client-side include.  So a screen reader might just present it as a
link to the HTML document, which is what the contents of the OBJECT
are likely to provide anyway.)

>So, ASCII art is "plain" text in that it does not contain markup.  The
>spaces and tabs are just ASCII characters.  Can a UA assume that if an
>OBJECT contains plain text that it is ASCII art?

	Well, it could also be an external text document that nobody
has bothered to convert to Hypertext, which should be legible,
although not as easily interpreted as HTML (since it might use fixed
width spacing rather than TABLES, wouldn't contain any H1-H6s, etc).
So the question is, is it sensible and/or safe for a browser for the
blind to refuse text/plain OBJECTs?  Probably, since the ones that
aren't just ASCII art are likely to contain links to the text
documents, e.g.,

<OBJECT DATA="rfc1766.txt" TYPE="text/plain" TITLE="RFC 1766">
<A HREF="rfc1766.txt">RFC 1766</A>
					John T. Whelan
Received on Thursday, 10 September 1998 11:11:53 UTC

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