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Re: Guideline on avoiding visual language?

From: David Poehlman <poehlman1@comcast.net>
Date: Mon, 03 Jun 2002 05:37:01 -0400
To: Jukka Korpela <jukka.korpela@tieke.fi>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-id: <000e01c20ae2$36ff8fc0$91e03244@DAVIDPOEHLMAN>

I didn't see the reference to color but I wouldn't exclude it, I would
find an additional way of presenting it though because we do have a
checkpoint about not identifying important elements with color alone.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jukka Korpela" <jukka.korpela@tieke.fi>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Sent: Monday, June 03, 2002 4:12 AM
Subject: RE: Guideline on avoiding visual language?

Tom Gilder wrote:

> Something that I feel is missing from WCAG is a guideline
> about trying to avoid using visual language.

Such an idea might be seen as being implicit in the guidelines, but
there doesn't seem to be any explicit statement about it.

> For instance, "see the links on the left" - meaningless
> in an audio or text browser.

Or "the new items are in red".

> "The table is divided into two columns. The left-hand
> column is 'Total investment required in billions of dollars'.
> The right--hand column is 'Spending' and is divided into
> three sub-columns."

(They indeed have a double hyphen there: "right--hand". It might cause
confusion in speech synthesis. Or perhaps major, since "--" is a common
surrogate for an em dash, so a sensible way, in some sense, would be to
"right" and "hand" as clearly separate words, with a noticeable pause
between them.)

In a sense, this isn't very serious. "Left" and "right" are so common
concepts that the listener probably understands that "left-hand" means
'first' and "right-hand" means 'second'. On the other hand, it would be
simple thing to fix this by using "first" and "second".

I'd be more worried about "billion". It has different meanings to
people: a thousand million to some people, a million million to others
(excluding those that don't know the word at all). The formulation is
from clear and could easily be made clearer, so I'd say it violates
Guideline 14. But this is a separate topic.

Returning to "visual language", a guideline would naturally need to be
formulated more generally. For example: "Avoid using expressions that
meaningful only in a particular mode of presentation, such as visual,
the content itself is inherently dependent on a particular
That is, you could say "on the left" when describing something in a
photograph but should avoid such a phrase when discussing e.g. tabular

Besides, what _should_ we do when we use auxiliary visual hints to make
structure more apparent, if those hints would work better when
with textual notes. Should we say "in a colored visual presentation, the
items are in red"?

Jukka Korpela, senior adviser
TIEKE Finnish Information Society Development Centre
Phone: +358 9 4763 0397 Fax: +358 9 4763 0399
Received on Monday, 3 June 2002 05:38:26 UTC

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