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XML question

From: Paul Bohman <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>
Date: Thu, 24 May 2001 16:23:56 -0600
Message-ID: <009c01c0e4a0$38c04980$20117b81@paul>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
I would like some clarification about the accessibility of XML.

It is relatively easy to make HTML accessible, because there are defined
tags with specific purposes. In XML, there are no predefined tags. A screen
reader would have no idea that it is reading a paragraph, a link, a title,
or anything else. Now, I know that you can convert XML into HTML, at which
point accessibility becomes less of an issue, but what about pure XML
content? I can use a DTD to define things in a way that make sense to me,
but the definitions of XML entities are literally infinite. How can a screen
reader recognize elements as having any meaning or context, other than the
text inside of those elements? I can use an XSL style sheet to give the XML
content a certain layout or mode of presentation, but that's of no use to a
screen reader either.

It seems to me that XML is stripped of any useful structure, as far as a
screen reader is concerned. This leaves us with text that may or may not
make sense outside of its structural relationships. Think of tables for
example. HTML tables can be confusing enough--but what if you don't even
know that it's a table? Listening to a bunch of data outside of a table
structure can be almost completely useless.

How are we going to get around this as the Web migrates to an XML-based

Paul Bohman
Technology Coordinator
WebAIM: Web Accessibility in Mind (www.webaim.org)
Center for Persons with Disabilities (www.cpd.usu.edu)
Utah State University (www.usu.edu)
Received on Thursday, 24 May 2001 18:23:51 UTC

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