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RE: [techs] Acronyms and abbreviations

From: John M Slatin <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu>
Date: Fri, 14 May 2004 09:53:59 -0500
Message-ID: <C46A1118E0262B47BD5C202DA2490D1A0183B010@MAIL02.austin.utexas.edu>
To: "Michael Cooper" <michaelc@watchfire.com>, "W3C WAI-GL" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

In principle, I agree that every occurrence of an acronym or
abbreviation should be tagged with the appropriate element.

In practice, however, what ends up happening is that people using screen
readers/talking browsers never actually hear the acronym or
abbreviation, because the screen reader *replaces* the screen text with
the title attribute (or the abbr attribute in a <th> element).  (Yes,
Joe, this is a user agent issue and doesn't affect the principle; but
where techniques are concerned we should at least be aware of how
current user agents behave; we could then recommend to Freedom
Scientific, GW Micro, IBM, Dolphin, et al., that they support both
screen text and title at the user's discretion).


"Good design is accessible design." 
Please note our new name and URL!
John Slatin, Ph.D.
Director, Accessibility Institute
University of Texas at Austin
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1 University Station G9600
Austin, TX 78712
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email jslatin@mail.utexas.edu
web http://www.utexas.edu/research/accessibility/


-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org] On
Behalf Of Michael Cooper
Sent: Friday, May 14, 2004 9:13 am
Subject: RE: [techs] Acronyms and abbreviations

My personal opinion is that abbreviations and acroynms should be marked
up on every occurence, as Jens had in mind. There are several reasons
for this:

* There is no guarantee that the first, marked up occurence will have
been encountered before encountering a later, unmarked occurence.
Therefore the usefulness of having provided the markup is voided.

* There is no guarantee that user agents will recognize, in unmarked up
text, a recurrence of an abbreviation or acronym that has been
previously identified through markup. Therefore the user agent will not
know to do anything special with it. I don't think we can say that if a
user agent encounters the acronym <acronym title="Americans with
Disabilities Act">ADA</acronym> and later encounters the text "ADA", it
will know that is a repetition of the same text. What if the article
also happens to be discussing the Ada programming language? Will the
user agent reliably be able to tell the acronym from the non-acronym
version of the same letter combination apart without markup?

* Even if user agents did recognize recurrences of a previously marked
up abbreviation or acronym, the absence of markup would mean they would
not know what special action to take (except for taking the same action
that was applied on the marked up instance, but someone on the list
recently posted a vision in which that would not be the case).

* Finally, a given letter combination can stand for more than one
abbreviation or acronym. My favourite example is an article on the
application of the Americans with Disabilities Act to the American
Dental Association. That is to say, the ADA applied to the ADA, or the
ADA's adoption of the ADA. Confused yet? We need markup to disambiguate.

For all these reasons I believe abbreviation and acronym markup should
be used on all instances. If one is going to the trouble to mark up one
instance, I don't see that it is a lot more trouble to mark up all

But, having said all this, I believe the general feeling in the group is
against this, and does favour only requiring a single instance to be
marked up. I spelled out my thoughts more explictly to see if it
stimulates further discussion of that, but for now the 1-instance
version is the one that stands in the HTML techniques.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jens Meiert [mailto:jens.meiert@erde3.com]
> Sent: Friday, May 14, 2004 6:31 AM
> To: W3C WAI-GL
> Subject: [wcag2] Acronyms and abbreviations
> Please help -- I had in mind that explaining /every/ abbreviation and 
> acronym on a page is considered necessary and useful, but the 
> guidelines state to 'use the abbr (and acronym) element to expand
> abbreviations where
> they first occur' [1].
> What is really recommended, using them once or everywhere?
> All the best,
>  Jens.
> [1] http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-HTML-TECHS/#text-abbr
> --
> Jens Meiert
> Interface Architect (IxD)
> http://meiert.com/
Received on Friday, 14 May 2004 10:54:03 UTC

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