W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > April to June 2002

Re: CSS accessibility problems: is markup dead?

From: Jim Byrne <j.byrne@gcal.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 16 May 2002 11:00:02 +0100
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <B90941B1.10EE1%j.byrne@gcal.ac.uk>
on 16/5/02 7:52 am, Jukka Korpela at jukka.korpela@tieke.fi wrote:

> Danny Ayers:
>> A good piece - your have a reasonable point and argue it well. On the
>> downside I would say that it only gives part of the story.
> I think this impression might be mainly caused by the subtitle-like text
> "Top ten accessibility problems created by use and misuse of CSS", which now
> appears in the "breadcrumbs" and pointing to
> http://www.mcu.org.uk/articles/cssaccessproblems
> which points (via redirection) to the page itself. Reflexive links (i.e., a
> link that points to the page itself) are confusing, and using different URLs
> adds to the confusion, since a browser initially treats it as unvisited link
> (since the _URL_ has not been visited). Maybe it's intended to become a
> structural link that points to a page with links to nine other articles?


I agree, the 'breadcrumb' links are generated automatically - and this one
went astray - I've fixed it. I know it's bad practice to have links on a
page that point to themselves - but I will need to figure out how to change
the script that generates the breadcrumbs to sort that problem. I intend to
get around to it.
> But despite such problems, and other (minor) problems in the accessibility
> of the page itself, like using alt="Decorative photo: white flowers."
> instead of alt="" title="Decorative photo: white flowers.", I found the page
> very good, too. I'm biased, in a sense, since I've presented similar points
> for years, e.g. in my article "Lurching Toward Babel: HTML, CSS, and XML" in
> "Computer" in July 1998,
> http://computer.org/computer/co1998/pdf/r7103.pdf
> (Yes, in PDF format! Not my choice.)

We could argue about what should appear in the alt attribute - but we would
only be covering old ground. I like to regard myself as flexible enough to
change when persuaded by good arguments, but for the moment I'm doing it the
way I'm doing it.
>> You make the point that using e.g. <SPAN> rather than <H1> for things that
>> are headers is lacking something, though you don't actually pin down what
> it 
>> is.
> I think the article presents that fairly well - it points out that <SPAN>
> lacks a defined meaning that could be adequately processed by programs, such
> as indexing robots, speech synthesis, browsers applying user style sheets,
> etc. And let's not forget browsers with CSS turned off (or not supported at
> all). What does <SPAN> degrade to? Nothing. There's no reason why <SPAN>
> markup per se should be processed in any particular way.
> For example, when headings are adequately marked up, a browser that
> generates speech can pause before a heading, read it slowly, pause, and
> continue its normal (fast) speed. This makes the document _much_ clearer and
> easier to listen; it is comparable to using spacing and large fonts in
> visual presentation. A browser could not, and should not, do anything like
> that with <SPAN>, even if the tag has class="otsikko" or class="rubrik" (or
> even class="heading" - it would be quite unappropriate for a browser to make
> guesses based on what some string might mean in some particular natural
> language).
> Sure, you could write an aural style sheet for some <SPAN>s. Even in
> principle, it would solve just small part of the problem. In practice, when
> did you last see a browser supporting aural style sheets? Besides, trying to
> cover _all_ the possible presentation environments by writing style sheets
> for them is an endless task. Some browsers use one font only but variation
> in font color to indicate major structural ingredients like headings. They
> do it automatically, as long as you use appropriate markup; but you can't
> make them do that for your <SPAN>s.

I agree; HTML is a 'structured markup' language; there is a hierarchy of
elements that makes sense, and agreement about what each tag means. That is
what I am saying in the article - no need to re-invent the wheel.

All the best,
Jim Byrne Project Director, The Making Connections Unit, Glasgow Caledonian
University, Glasgow G4 OBA, 0141 331 3893

Everything you need to know about publishing accessible information on the

Services: Website Accessibility Audits, Accessible Web design, Accessible
Website Management Training.

The Making Connections Unit: http://www.mcu.org.uk/
Scottish Disability Information Mailing list:
Received on Thursday, 16 May 2002 06:00:38 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Wednesday, 7 January 2015 16:08:46 UTC