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RE: Unicode and accessibility

From: Jim Thatcher <jim@jimthatcher.com>
Date: Sun, 4 Apr 2004 09:59:17 -0500
To: "'Jesper Tverskov'" <jesper.tverskov@mail.tele.dk>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <001001c41a55$6f543b30$6501a8c0@JTCOM2400>
Use markup!


I wrote the "language guessing" algorithm for the first version of IBM Home
Page Reader that did automatic language switching. It was hard, and only
switched languages for the whole page. It is certainly impossible to guess
language changes for phrases. We only worried about switching to the 6 or 8
languages available. Even then my measure of success was the ability to
successfully switch for major sites, like Yahoo and IBM, which had country
specific versions. Today HPR will do language switching in the document when
it is properly marked up and when the language is supported.


I still don't consider language switching an accessibility issue (as I
argued eons ago during WCAG 1.0 development) marking up language changes is
the way to go. 



Accessibility, What Not to do: http://jimthatcher.com/whatnot.htm.

Web Accessibility Tutorial: http://jimthatcher.com/webcourse1.htm.

-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org] On Behalf
Of Jesper Tverskov
Sent: Sunday, April 04, 2004 6:25 AM
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: Unicode and accessibility


I would like to ask the list about potential or already existing  problems
or challenges for accessibility caused by the use of Unicode.


Let us take Google as example. It returns search results in many different
languages on the same page, and the result page uses Unicode.


At the moment change of natural language is not included in the mark-up.
Since the user can choose to get results in a particular language only it
would probably be possible for Google to indicate change of natural language
automatically even when many languages are used in the same page and the
page is generated from many different language sources.


It is probably less realistic to expect smaller or ordinary websites and web
services to be able to include mark-up for change of natural language when
documents are generated on the run from many language sources including
interaction with users, like commentary and debate, etc.


Now consider a modern word processor like MS Word. Even if 10 different
languages are used in 10 paragraphs on the same page, the spell checker has
no problem identifying the change of natural language and to apply the right
dictionary for each paragraph. No indication of change of natural language
is needed by the author.


Maybe it is more realistic in many situations to leave indication of change
in natural language to user agents than to expect web page authors to do the
job. Web page authors should probably still indicate change of natural
language in web content made by themselves, but it is probably much more
convenient and realistic to leave this task to user agents for many types of
generated content. Why not leave the job of indicating change of natural
language to a handful of user agents and save millions of web page authors
for a lot of work?


The above is just one example of problems or challenges for accessibility
arising from or made more common by the use of Unicode. I would like to hear
of other cases, and if it is more realistic in many situations to leave
detection of change in natural language to user agents.


Best regards,

Jesper Tverskov


Received on Sunday, 4 April 2004 10:59:28 UTC

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