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RE: Is AAA Onerous?

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2000 12:28:02 -0800
To: "'Kynn Bartlett'" <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>, "'Bailey, Bruce'" <Bruce_Bailey@ed.gov>
Cc: "'Frank Tobin'" <ftobin@uiuc.edu>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <001d01c06ac3$5ab9b1e0$0100a8c0@aries>
Kynn Bartlett wrote:

"4.2 Specify the expansion of each abbreviation or acronym in a
document where it first occurs.

"This can be difficult especially if it is demanded that the word
be expanded _regardless of audience_ and if it is demanded that
it be encoded using _markup_ and not naturally as English allows
for.

"In other words, with a strict interpretation, this quickly becomes
onerous -- and we've seen in recent days that many people are very
quick to demand strict interpretations."

I reply:

As has been pointed out repeatedly, "strict interpretations" is your
interpretation of anyone else's interpretation that doesn't align with
yours, Kynn. There is nothing strict about taking the checkpoints at face
value.

In 4.2 (above), there is nothing about using markup. Clearly, this
checkpoint is met whether you use markup, or just expand the abbreviation in
the text. In fact, this checkpoint is standard protocol for *all* good
writing. How many times have you been reading an article in a journal and
been mystified by an acronym? Almost always, if you look back you'll see
that the acronym is defined where it is first used. This isn't an accident.
Any editor will tell you: it's just the right way to do things.

So I don't think that 4.2 is very onerous at all, nor do I even think it's
especially accessibility-related. It's good practice for everyone. (If you
think it's onerous, Kynn, I recommend that you don't go into journalism.
You'll be forced to do it all the time.)

As for audience, don't be so quick to assume that everyone knows everything.
That, too, is a mark of bad writing. Often I've read technical papers that
are filled with undefined acronyms and abbreviations and found myself
stymied by one or two with which I was unfamiliar. Students read those
papers, too. Do everyone a favor and expand them. Isn't this especially
important for people with cognitive disabilities?

One area where I think this checkpoint is unclear is that it appears to
require expansion of abbreviations like i.e., etc., and e.g. I doubt that
the authors of the WCAG really intended to force everyone to write:

<abbr lang="la" title="id est">i.e.</abbr>

the first time they used i.e. But it might not be a bad idea. It certainly
doesn't hurt anything. Then again, when writing documents that might be read
by persons with cognitive disabilities, I recommend that we use "that is"
for i.e., "for example" for e.g., and "and the rest" for etc. Or expand them
that way:

<abbr title="that is">i.e.</abbr>

Hell, maybe the average English speaker will finally learn the difference
between i.e. and e.g.!

There are also some abbreviations that are universal. For example, does
anyone on the planet not know what "U.S.A." stands for? But again, when
writing for those with cognitive disabilities, maybe even that abbreviation
should be expanded.

I don't think this checkpoint is onerous at all. The real problem comes when
people use poorly-designed WYSIWYG authoring tools to build their pages. But
that's another argument for avoiding the HTML and just defining
abbreviations and acronyms in the text (and for coding by hand until a
decent authoring tool is released).

Charles F. Munat,
Seattle, Washington
Received on Wednesday, 20 December 2000 15:22:01 GMT

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