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RE: About ABBR (and ACRONYM)

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2000 03:19:46 -0500
Message-Id: <4.2.2.20000220010949.00bb8b50@pop3.concentric.net>
To: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
Cc: WAI Interest Group Emailing List <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
aloha, kynn!

the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) implies that the expected 
action of a user agent is to recycle the first instance of an expanded 
acronym or abbreviation each time the string is encountered, so i don't 
think that asking someone to enclose the first instance of an acronym or 
abbreviation is unreasonable...

but, let me address your questions...  you wrote:

quote
In other words, when I'm writing email (such as a HWG newsletter), I'll say 
something like World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on first reference, and then 
W3C afterwards.  Wouldn't it be better to teach those writing for the web 
to follow that existing, pre-web convention, rather than encouraging them 
to use ABBR/ACRONYM which is not well supported?
unquote

i do "see" your point about introducing a term first, and its acronym or 
abbreviation parenthetically, but i think you are missing mine...  first, 
i'm not asking for anything off-the-wall by asking that the first instance 
of an acronym or abbreviation be expanded -- optimally in the way you cited 
as exhibit one, with the acronym being introduced parenthetically _after_ 
the term or word being shortened is introduced...  second, while you may be 
able to keep the expansion in your head whilst absorbing new material, not 
everyone can, nor should they be expected to -- which is why WCAG suggests 
only that the _first_ instance of an acronym or abbreviation be encased in 
the appropriate markup... third, without recourse to ACRONYM and ABBR, how 
would you distinguish between multi-use acronyms and abbreviations?  if one 
has a page in which one is attempting to convey the official position of 
the American Dental Association (ADA) on the Americans with Disabilities 
Act (ADA), wouldn't it make sense to provide for the expansion of _each_ 
instance of ADA, so as to avoid confusion?  what about multi-use 
abbreviations such as d r period, which in english can be an abbreviation 
for "Doctor" or "Drive", as in a street address?  fourth, what if you 
arrive at the page containing the acronym or abbreviation via a bookmark 
that points to a name anchor three-quarters of the way down the page?

you also wrote:
quote
My version of Lynx won't do anything with ACRONYM tags, but I can say (W3C) 
after World Wide Web Consortium, and -everyone- will understand 
it.  Wouldn't that imply, then, that "manual" acronym identification is 
superior, from an accessibility standpoint, to markup ACRONYM identification?
unquote

no, not if you can't remember what the hell the acronym or abbreviation is 
supposed to mean, or if you followed a link that places you somewhere deep 
in the document, far removed from the parenthetic introduction of the 
acronym or abbreviation ...    besides, i haven't argued against inline 
expansion of an acronym or abbreviation before it is introduced, but use of 
ACRONYM and ABBR would _increase_ the usability and accessibility of the 
page when the acronym or abbreviation is recycled within the page, provided 
that the user could expand the acronym or abbreviation either on demand 
(something which is currently supported in IE if you can use a pointing 
device), or on a user-configurable schedule (such as a screen-reader 
setting that would allow one to configure the screen-reader to either 
always expand, expand when using the screen-reader's spell-word command, 
alert user of available expansion via a beep or sound clip, etc.)

oh, and in case you were wondering, i not only mark up e t c period with 
the ABBR tag, but use the lang="la" to indicate that: (a) this particular 
term deviates from the natural language -- english -- declared using the 
LANG attribute in the HTML element, and (b) if it is expanded aurally, it 
should be expanded using the phonetic rule base for latin, even though i 
know that there aren't any screen readers or self-voicing browsers that are 
currently capable of reading to me in latin...  so why persist in the 
practice?  because, et cetera _is_ latin, and that's enough for the 
repressed medievalist in me!

to return to the original nub of my gist, yes, i really do think that there 
is a need for both inline and marked-up expansion of acronyms, and that 
authors should be encouraged to follow both practices when introducing an 
acronym...  and -- since there is an expectation (at least in WCAG -- i 
couldn't find anything indicating that the expansion would slash should be 
reused by a conforming user agent in the HTML 4x spec) that the expansion 
will be recycled, on pages where 2 different, yet identical, acronyms or 
abbreviations -- such as "Dr.", "St.", and "ADA" -- authors need to be 
encouraged to individually enclose _each_ instance with the appropriate 
markup...

as a matter of fact, as a speech-user myself, i usually mark up any and 
every abbreviation with the ABBR tag, in the hopes that someday i will have 
access to a screen-reader or self-voicing browser that is capable of 
expanding abbreviations based on the TITLE contained in the ABBR tag, 
rather than relying on the type of inflexible exceptions dictionaries 
currently available...

but there i go again -- expanding exponentially!  will i ever learn?
         gregory.

At 07:59 PM 2/19/00 -0800, Kynn wrote:
>At 07:48 PM 2/19/2000 , Gregory J. Rosmaita wrote:
> >in any other medium, it would be considered a sign not of sloppiness, 
> but rank incompetence and indifference, for an author NOT to expand an 
> acronym the first time it is introduced to the reader...  why then, 
> should the web be exempt from this rule of thumb, simply because it takes 
> a few calories on the part of the author to (1) think of the correct 
> expansion and (2) a few keystrokes to enclose the term in an ACRONYM?
>
>Gregory, since web documents can be rendered in a number of media
>in which acronym expansion is not available -- such as a printed
>copy of a web page -- do you think it would be advisable to follow
>the rule of any other medium, and "manually" expand acronyms and
>abbreviations when writing them?
>
>In other words, when I'm writing email (such as a HWG newsletter),
>I'll say something like World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on first
>reference, and then W3C afterwards.  Wouldn't it be better to teach
>those writing for the web to follow that existing, pre-web convention,
>rather than encouraging them to use ABBR/ACRONYM which is not well
>supported?
>
>I'm playing devil's advocate here, but with a purpose.  Sometimes
>it is important for us to not forget the techniques we've learned
>offline when moving online.  As far as I know, several major
>browsers do not support ABBR/ACRONYM elements in HTML, but everything
>can support inline parenthetical acronym definitions.
>
>My version of Lynx won't do anything with ACRONYM tags, but I can
>say (W3C) after World Wide Web Consortium, and -everyone- will
>understand it.  Wouldn't that imply, then, that "manual" acronym
>identification is superior, from an accessibility standpoint, to
>markup ACRONYM identification?
>
>Do you see my point here?  By relying on a poorly supported set of
>tags such as ABBR and ACRONYM, we may be actually -decreasing- the
>accessibility of our page.
>
>It could be argued that both should be used -- but do you really think
>the following is necessary?
>
>EXHIBIT ONE
>
>       The Web Accessibility Initiative
>       (<ACRONYM TITLE="Web Accessibility Initiative">WAI</ACRONYM>)
>       is part of the World Wide Web Consortium
>       (<ABBR TITLE="World Wide Web Consortium">W3C</ABBR>).
>
>Can you really honestly and truly say that is more accessible than:
>
>EXHIBIT TWO
>
>       The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is part of the World
>       Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
>
>If you think the first example is more accessible -- why, how, and
>to whom?  If you think they're equally accessible, doesn't that
>mean that the markup is a waste of time, energy, space, and bandwidth?
>
>Finally, consider the following:
>
>EXHIBIT THREE
>
>       The
>       <ACRONYM TITLE="Web Accessibility Initiative">WAI</ACRONYM>
>       is part of the
>       <ABBR TITLE="World Wide Web Consortium">W3C</ABBR>.
>
>I maintain that this is the -least- accessible of the three exhibits --
>and yet it's followed the "correct" markup as suggested by the WCAG!
>If you print this out or view it in Lynx, you will -not- know what
>the abbreviated forms mean -- but you will in either of the previous
>exhibits.
>--
>Kynn Bartlett                                    mailto:kynn@hwg.org
>President, HTML Writers Guild                    http://www.hwg.org/
>AWARE Center Director                          http://aware.hwg.org/

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ABSURDITY, n.  A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with
one's own opinion.       -- Ambrose Bierce, _The Devils' Dictionary_
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Gregory J. Rosmaita      <unagi69@concentric.net>
Camera Obscura           <http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/index.html>
VICUG NYC                <http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/vicug/>
Read 'Em & Speak         <http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/books/>
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Received on Sunday, 20 February 2000 03:10:19 GMT

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