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Title attribute: increase scope of use

From: Sailesh Panchang <sailesh.panchang@deque.com>
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 2004 11:53:11 -0400
Message-ID: <014b01c45d28$0541cd50$a501a8c0@deque.local>
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Title and user agents / assistive technology
Refer to attached title-sample.htm for examples. Note title attribute has been used extensively and is rendered visibly but may not be accessible to screen readers. 
1. IE renders the value of the title attribute as a tooltip if it is used legally with any HTML element (except a few like html, head, meta, title, param).
Unless a pointing device is used in a visual browser, the tooltip is not visible and a sighted keyboard user may not be able to access the tooltip. User
agents should render the tooltip even when a key press is used to gain access to an element.

2. Text to speech adaptive software at present offers limited support for the title attribute:
. JAWS for Windows 5: supports img, anchor, input, acronym, abbr and frame. It allows user to have the title attribute spoken by default in place of the
alt, or linked text or the label.
. Window-Eyes 4.5 additionally supports the title attribute set on the table, td and ol, ul tags. One can query the attributes defined for an element and
check the value of the title.
. Home Page Reader: does not offer any method to access the title. It only speaks the title if it is used in place of the alt for an imgor when it is used
on the input control.

4. In general terms, screen reading software voices the value of the title attribute by default only when:
- screen text (for an anchor) is absent , or
- alt (for an image) is absent.
Alternatively, the verbosity selection must be set to speak the title preferentially in place of the alt or screen text. Not all assistive technologies provide this feature.
Note: HPR does not recognize an anchor which has no linked text but only a title set on it like an invisible link for skip nav.

5. The title can be usefully set on a td element in a table or on the ol or li element in a list or on the map element.

5.1. If some table data cells are shaded gray to convey some meaning, the cell can be marked up using the title attribute to convey the same information
textually. Windows-Eyes exposes the title set on the td but one has to explicitly query the attributes for every cell. When the title attribute is set
on the table It can replace the caption tag for a table especially when the content author chooses not to have a visible caption for a table. In the accompanying
sample two of the three countries have a title attribute set on them. That table tag also has a title.

5.2 The title attribute can be used as a heading for a list when used in conjunction with ol or ul. In the accompanying sample , the ol element has a title set on it. Window-Eyes reads the title if set on the ol or ul tags when it announces the start of the list.

5.3. It is also possible to use the HTML 4.01 MAP element to group links, then identify the group with the "title" attribute. (Ref: HTML techniques for
WCAG 1.0)

6. It will be very helpful for assistive technologies to access both the alt and title if they are different for an image. Similarly, the title should be read if it is different from the screen text in case of linked text. Alternatively, screen readers should define ahot key that speaks the title element when the key is activated for any element. 
This should not be very difficult: even now one can set JAWS for Windows to speak the label and title or label and alt for a form control if the label is
different from the title / alt.
In short, screen readers must support the title attribute when it is used  legally with any HTML element.

Sailesh Panchang
Senior Accessibility Engineer 
Deque Systems,11180  Sunrise Valley Drive, 
4th Floor, Reston VA 20191
Tel: 703-225-0380 Extension 105 
E-mail: sailesh.panchang@deque.com
Fax: 703-225-0387
* Look up <http://www.deque.com> *

Received on Monday, 28 June 2004 11:53:12 UTC

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