W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > January to March 1999

Re: emotica, ASCII art and accessibility - some suggestions

From: <waz@easynet.co.uk>
Date: Fri, 15 Jan 1999 18:50:42 +0000
Message-ID: <369F8E02.50D2@easynet.co.uk>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Charles F. Munat wrote:
>> Wayne wrote:
>> "A special kind of PRE
>> tag would be good [snip]...

> You can already accomplish this for some browsers by using
> the TITLE attribute with the PRE tag.

Fair enough, though this doesn't leave any way of distinguishing between
ascii art that should be replaced by its description and pre-formatted
text that should be read verbatim.

> Of course, neither of these will work with plain-text email,
> so my simple solution for that is: WRITE ENGLISH.

This is like saying - we're snowed in, so let's not bother with snow
ploughs, lets go somewhere where it doesn't snow. No. I want a snow
plough. For when it does snow.

> I, for
> one, don't have much patience with people who rely on
> "emoticons" to express their feelings. [snip]

No-one 'relies' on them. People use them though, as part of a palette of
ways of expressing things. Just because you don't want to extend your
personal palette of expression - which is your right - by what right do
you suggest that on that basis these things shouldn't be extended - if
possible - to be accessible to include everyone.
> Frankly, I wish there were a way to remove emoticons
> completely. [snip]

Fine. But there isn't. :(

> Which brings up another point. Taken out of context, can we
> really define these emoticons? Sure a smile and a wink is
> pretty easy, but some are pretty complicated. And even the
> smile can be misinterpreted. Consider all the discussion
> about "universal symbols." Are any symbols truly universal?
> And who gets to decide which one is which? Do we have an
> international standard (ISO maybe?) or will this be a W3C
> recommendation or maybe just an American thing?

Well, since we're not all American, no, it's not just an American thing
thanks for asking. I would personally love there to be an ISO standard
for smileys, because I think the idea is hysterically funny (I suspect
you do not) - however I would more reasonably imagine that some kind of
informal basic list where generic descriptions in various languages are
collated and maintained. in fact - i know that many such lists do exist,
my point is that one of them could be hijacked (nicely), er, co-opted i
mean, in order to improve accessibility online. Regardless of my
personal opinion of them and their use, I do see an awful lot of them
out there. I would also point out that in live telnet/ICQ scenarios and
such, their use is more or less compulsory in some places. You can't be
seriously suggesting that nothing be done about trying to improve
accessibility in those areas, and solving the emoticon issue may be
quite a step there.

Defining emoticons may perhaps be best left to those who do not find
their use disgusting and shameful, but I suspect that some kind of
consensus could usefully be reached. The basic core of emoticons remains
the same - the colon followed by the open bracket, the close bracket or
the pipe, with or without a hyphen in the middle - the happy, unsure and
sad smileys respectively.

But the central list thing is a red herring really. The important thing
is that screen readers include functionality to allow you to a)
interpret certain arbitrary sequences of characters as text - so :)
becomes 'smiley' or whatever, and b) that the user can edit these
sequences as well as have them populated from one or more central
sources, so no-one need be locked out of this extra way of expressing
oneself - even if there are those who would wish to see this happen. So,
if an individual feels that the central list's description of :| as
'apprehensive smiley' is wrong, and that it should be
'just-swallowed-plank-sideways-smiley' - they should be able to set it
to that, and if another individual wants to set up their screen reader
to delete the lot - why the same routine would do that too - just
populate the list with empty strings in the translation... :)

cheers etc.,

Received on Friday, 15 January 1999 13:51:13 UTC

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