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Re: <span> within a word any issue for screen readers?

From: Geoff Deering <geoff@deering.id.au>
Date: Mon, 09 Jan 2006 23:12:00 +1100
Message-ID: <43C25310.4000607@deering.id.au>
To: Patrick Lauke <P.H.Lauke@salford.ac.uk>
CC: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

Patrick Lauke wrote:

>> Geoff Deering
>>The way I read the specifications is that both SPAN and DIV 
>>elements are 
>>generic container elements that carry no structural meaning in 
>>themselves, and only convey information via attributes and associated 
>>styles.  I would therefore assume that if screen readers are breaking 
>>words that have SPAN elements within them that they have not 
>>implemented the guidelines.  Please correct me if I am wrong.
>Don't have an authoritive answer from the spec, but purely from a
>common sense point of view: if you're marking something up as being
>a separate span (within a word), you're creating a structural break
>between what is inside the span and what comes before/after. Regardless
>of structural meaning, you have created a structural distinction.

But the SPAN element carries no structural meaning itself.

In the past I used it to assign a visible accesskey via an underscore to 
a key letter assigned as the accesskey (where's 
TheJohnFoliotAccessKeyParserAlert?... sorry John:-).  I don't waste my 
time with this any more, so it's not something that is a real problem now.

My approach is to be as minimalist as possible.  In some cases this is 
just plain dumb - being a minimalist.  At the same time there must be 
some path to developing accessible web sites that follows the KISS 
principle whilst steering clear of all the bugs and incorrect 
implementations of faulty user agents. 

God, at times I can't believe how much attention we have to spend 
addressing user agent bugs and issues.  I can understand all the 
problems we have had with user agents in the late nineties and early 
twenty-first century years, but I really don't think things have 
improved greatly, and we are now in the second half of this decade.  To 
me, it's so frustrating.

>Whether this structural distinction is "less strong" than, say, the distinction
>between different block level elements, or even adjacent inline elements,
>doesn't seem to be defined in the spec, from what I can see.
>To take the thought off at a tangent, what should the expected behaviour of
>screen readers be when faced with something like
>e<a href="...">x</a>ample
>(if we forget for a second that "x" is not a sensible link text...I just
>can't think of a workable example right now)

Yes, I agree with you, I can't see many reasons to break up a word using 
span, but there may be cases for it, and the user agent should not have 
a problem with it.

Programming logic

If SPAN element is empty of attributes ignore
else apply rules appropriately.

You see, the point here, like so many is that the developer is trying to 
aid usability and accessibility, but through all the foibles and bugs, 
their efforts are actually counter productive.  You know, this is the 
dilemma that the web accessibility developer faces all the time... Oh 
get up and go for a walk Geoff...

Geoff Deering
Received on Monday, 9 January 2006 12:29:48 UTC

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