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

Re: emotica, ASCII art and accessibility - some suggestions

From: Lakespur Roca <lake@netscape.com>
Date: Fri, 15 Jan 1999 13:51:40 -0800
Message-ID: <369FB86C.2DECAAFA@netscape.com>
To: Sophie Latulippe <lsophie@total.net>
CC: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
One thing that hasn't been mentioned on this thread yet is the inherent impersonal
nature of the medium and the fact that many (I would even go so far as to say most
people) are left with a missing link in communication due to the nature of Email.
Email is most often an informal communication, even less so than a letter which
allows drawings and is usually formally to a business or informally to some one you

already know.  At present Email is not an effective tool for social communication
that there are no methods to communicate adequately the emotions that would be
present in the informal spoken language; no inflections of voice, facial
body language and no pictures for the most part. Emoticons are an attempt to give
added meaning when ever possible. Communication over Email is especially difficult
when the people are not known to each other as they can not predict on interpret
their sarcasm or other quirks of personal self expression.
I have to admit that they are often misused and misunderstood but with the user of
emoticons I have seen fewer flame wars over Email and I have been using Email for
a long time.

At present Emoticons are more than a Quirk in linguistics, or an attempt to subvert

the English language it fills a gap in communication adding band width. That
mean that screen readers and such should not have access to this quite the

A colleague of mine was doing her masters thesis on Email communication and
essentially the amount of miscommunication with this medium was primarily due to
misinterpretation of the writers intention.

This has been a great discussion.


Sophie Latulippe wrote:

> If I may add, the point here is to make the internet as accessible as
> possible.  Not to amputate it  in any ways.   I,  have cerebral palsy, and
> my feeling is (I may be wrong here...) that most persons with disabilities
> would want to have an  experience of the internet which is as complete as
> possible.  I don't think that amputating the internet from its special
> language (emoticons, ascii) is the right solution.  I do not think it would
> hold in the long run anyway.
> Thinking about avoiding emoticons or ascii art, to me, is a bit like
> avoiding the verb "to see" in front of a visually impaired person!  I think
> we should strive towards making "the internet experience" as rich as
> possible, suitable for as many tastes as possible.  I believe that by using
> our imagination, we will come up with something that will convey ascii art
> to non visual browsers...
> BTW: I apologize if my English is somewhat awkward.  I am a French Canadian
> from Montreal!!!
> _________________________
> Sophie Latulippe
> T?l/Phone :(514) 989-8117
> T?lec/Fax: (514) 989-8810
> courriel/email: lsophie@total.net
> Web: http://www.total.net/~lsophie
> ----------
> ?From: waz@easynet.co.uk
> ?To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
> ?Subject: emotica, ASCII art and accessibility - some suggestions
> ?Date: Fri, Jan 15, 1999, 4:02 PM
> ?
> ?In terms of proposing ASCII representations for things in online
> ?communication, without regard to whether or not the 'Air Hug' suggestion
> ?is something that will or will not catch on, the following things
> ?occurred to me:
> ?
> ?Things divide into two categories here - the small scale, 'inline'
> ?emoticon type ASCII stuff, like smileys, and the large scale graphical
> ?extravaganzas of full-blown multi-line ASCII artwork. Neither one is
> ?intrinsically accessible, and in terms of the second, I believe that the
> ?fact that there are as many accessiblity problems as there are with
> ?other kinds of graphics will not stop anyone from using it. ASCII art is
> ?out there and will not die - it is a shame that it is in the category of
> ?artwork that cannot necessarily be appreciated by all, but perhaps those
> ?who cannot see it will come to regard it in the same way that I
> ?personally regard opera - I ignore it and save time. The sensible
> ?compromise seems to me to suggest that ASCII art should only be used in
> ?sites and documents that either relate to ASCII art itself or that have
> ?some other kind of intrinsic accessibility issue. A special kind of PRE
> ?tag would be good, with an ALT of some sort, and then we could use ASCII
> ?art, and would have some way of making it accessible and dealing with
> ?the large online legacy of currently inaccessible-due-to-ascii-artwork
> ?documents.
> ?
> ?Meanwhile, the inline emoticons and smileys are so widely distributed
> ?online as to have attained, as far as I can tell, the equivalent of
> ?language status, in a sense, so it isn't a question of telling people to
> ?stop using them, because they wont. Perhaps a solution might be to get
> ?screen readers to have a list of the most commonly used ones and
> ?translate them accordingly. Such a list could be managed centrally by
> ?the WAI, in the form of a simple text file, with each line containing
> ?the emoticon and the description seperated by tabs (or something), which
> ?screenreaders could update the latest version of on a regular basis and
> ?use to translate every :), :-) X| and ~;) they come across. and it
> ?should be two way - with an 'insert' smiley option - after all, why
> ?shouldn't users of screenreaders be able to use 'winking smiley' or
> ?whatever as well as anyone.
> ?
> ?Maintaining this file would be a reasonable amount of work, I imagine,
> ?especially as there may not be universal agreement on the best way to
> ?translate each of the major emoticons into each language required, but
> ?it seems to me worthwhile in the sense that I feel strongly that
> ?solutions to accessibility issues ought to try to bring everyone in to
> ?what is already there, not to reduce what is already there to what
> ?everyone can already see, as well as making sure that all the new stuff
> ?is universally accessible too.
> ?
> ?I would be happy to help sort this out to the extent that I am able,
> ?though I am not an expert on either emoticons or screenreaders -
> ?certainly there already exist many listings of 'yer basic online
> ?emoticons' - and I thought I'd seen one on the w3c site itself once
> ?(though I can't find it right now) - surely it's just a question of
> ?finding a list to build a canonical central list from, making sure the
> ?suggestion gets directed at screenreader writers and sorting it out with
> ?next versions of screenreader software. do no current screenreaders have
> ?a 'set this sequence of characters to mean this phrase' option? forwards
> ?or backwards?
> ?
> ?Apologies if this has all been hashed over before.
> ?
> ?cheers etc.,
> ?
> ?wayne
> ?
> ?? The idea of an 'Air Hug' may be great but ..those slashes and dots are not
> ?? very helpful for those of us who use screen readers. I would not like to see
> ?? their use expanded.
> ?? Marti
> ?? -----Original Message-----
> ?? From: Robert C. Neff ?rcn@fenix2.dol-esa.gov?
> ?? To: 'w3c-wai-ig@w3.org' ?w3c-wai-ig@w3.org?
> ?? Date: Friday, January 15, 1999 8:27 AM
> ?? Subject: suggestion
> ??
> ?? ?To those who are not familiar with the slang "Air Hug", here is an example.
> ?? ? If you appreciate what someone has done and this act warrants a hug but
> ?? ?are separated by distance (short, long, or over the internet) and cannot
> ?? ?render the hug. You can extend your arms and pretend to hug and say "Air
> ?? ?Hug"
> ?? ?
> ?? ?As I have not seen an ascii representation for an "Air Hug",  I propose ?
> ?? ?\../ ? and for a "GREAT BIG AIR HUG" ? \\..// ?
> ?? ?
> ?? ?Obviously I am in a good mood!
> ?? ?
> ?? ?Rob
> ?? ?
> ?
> ?
Received on Friday, 15 January 1999 16:52:08 UTC

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