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Re: Unicode and accessibility

From: Nick Kew <nick@webthing.com>
Date: Sun, 4 Apr 2004 22:25:37 +0100 (BST)
To: Jesper Tverskov <jesper.tverskov@mail.tele.dk>
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.53.0404042210020.969@hugin.webthing.com>


On Sun, 4 Apr 2004, Jesper Tverskov wrote:

> 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.

And would be better if it highlighted different language pages more
clearly.  And that's speaking as a sighted user.

> 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.

Google's record on i18n does them no credit.  Just look at what's being
said on their "community", orkut (which they launched as latin-1, not
unicode - scarcely credible for a supposedly-global service today).

> 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.

Why?

As a rule, this is a function of awareness, not size.  And I expect
awareness is probably widespread outside the English-mother-tongue world.

> 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.

Really?

My experience differs: it has enough trouble distinguishing English
from American.  Only about a week ago I had email (from an american)
"correcting" my spelling on a webpage.  His spellcheck had evidently
diagnosed the language incorrectly, in spite of it being indicated
in the page's markup.

> 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.

Be conservative in what you expect of others, liberal in what you
accept from them.  Everyone should do their best.

>	 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.

Developers of authoring and publishing tools should ensure that
marking language changes correctly becomes automatic for authors,
and happens when a page is generated dynamically.

> 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.

It seems to me you've raised two separate issues: you speak of encoding
but advance arguments regarding language.  I find that makes it hard
to debate clearly.

-- 
Nick Kew

Nick's manifesto: http://www.htmlhelp.com/~nick/
Received on Sunday, 4 April 2004 17:26:08 UTC

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