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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

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Received on Thursday, 16 May 2002 06:00:38 UTC

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