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RE: Linear reading order

From: John M Slatin <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu>
Date: Wed, 7 Jul 2004 08:54:19 -0500
Message-ID: <C46A1118E0262B47BD5C202DA2490D1A03317E69@MAIL02.austin.utexas.edu>
To: "Yvette P. Hoitink" <y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl>, <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

Yvette wrote:

In my opinion, Jason White made a good case that we can't require the
author to create a logical linear reading order (no 'logical' order may
exist, depends on user preference, structure is already present).

However, we could require that _if_ reading order is predefined, it
should be logical. 

Using HTML+CSS, I can do stuff like

<p style="float:right;">no sense.</p>
<p style="float:left;">This sentence makes </p>

which will make it visually look like "This sentence makes no sense" but
will be read by screenreaders as "no sense. This sentence makes" (Go

I think cases like these are bad for accessibility and we should have a
success criteria somewhere in our guidelines that addresses this issue.
I'm thinking along the lines of: "If a reading order is provided, make
sure it is logical". 

I agree that Yvette's proposed wording moves us in the right direction.
It allows for the possibility that a given document might include both
content where reading order matters very much and content where it
doesn't matter, and I think that's a common case-- for example,
navigation bars can appear in different places and the order of the
links in those navigation bars may be arbitrary. But the order of words
within a sentence *does* matter-- though in some languages it matters
less than it does in English (for example). It also matters that content
such as links in a navigation bar not disrupt the order of words within
sentences or the order of sentences in a paragraph or the order of
paragraphs within a section of the document where such disruption would
make hash of the sense. (There's an example of this last scenario in the
discussion of the Metropolitan Museum site in Maximum Accessibility. The
problem was an artifact of the way layout tables were used.)

But the proposed wording still isn't testable: the problem is with the
word "logical."

Perhaps a case could be made that Yvette's example of the sentence
broken into paragraphs that are floated left and right violates 3.1
because the order in which the phrases occur in the default
presentation-- the source document as it would be rendered by user
agents that don't support style sheets-- breaks so sharply from the
principles of English  grammar and syntax that meaning cannot be

So perhaps we could modify Yvete'sproposal to go something like this:
When a particular reading order is specified through markup or a data
model, that reading order can be programmatically determined.

This isn't quite right either.  But I agree that we should have a
success criterion that addresses the issue of reading order.

Received on Wednesday, 7 July 2004 09:54:21 UTC

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