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

From: Patrick H. Lauke <redux@splintered.co.uk>
Date: Mon, 09 Jan 2006 23:26:42 +0000
Message-ID: <43C2F132.4090204@splintered.co.uk>
To: Phill Jenkins <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>
CC: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

A bit of a stream of consciousness reply...

Phill Jenkins wrote:

> But what if the <span> is bolded or underlined or whatever for some 
> other true valid presentational purpose, what should the screen reader 
> say?

I can't think of a true valid presentational purpose other than "design" 
(in the pejorative, whimsical, "just because it looks good to me" sense 
of the word - not "designed with a reason in mind"). "Valid 
presentational purpose", to me, implies a semantic intent - again, I 
can't think of a case in which this would be necessary in real world 
examples. So, this leaves the "purely visual, no meaning" design, in 
which case I'd say it's clear that it should lie purely in the domain of 
CSS. If there were a very real need for styling individual sub-strings 
of a single "functional unit" (probably not the right definition...i 
mean "a word"), then we should advocate for the addition of a substring 
selector in CSS. There should be *no need* to do anything at all in the 

Now, on the general "purely visual design" category, I can - at the 
moment - only think of things like the need to visually present a very 
specific logotype. This is probably a common scenario which has been 
discussed ad nauseam, so it may not be worth rehashing it (but usually, 
the discussion touches on: using graphics to remain faithful to the 
logotype, but they don't resize; using normal HTML text and styling the 
logotype via CSS, but it's flaky and doesn't guarantee correct use of 
specific fonts not on the user's machine; shouts from the back about 
"that's why we should use SVG").

> Please add your own examples and specify how you think the screen reader 
> should read the string of text.
> 9. How should LiveHelp be read? as live help, or live capital H elp, or 
> live help capital H, or what?

I'd be tempted to say it should be read out as "Live Help" and that the 
AT should look for the change in case to identify word boundaries, but 
then it would run afoul of "misuses" of mixed case (which could, 
however, come from the above case of "purely visual design" and should, 
to be consistent with what I said above, not be in the markup but in CSS 
or SVG etc)

Patrick H. Lauke
re·dux (adj.): brought back; returned. used postpositively
[latin : re-, re- + dux, leader; see duke.]
www.splintered.co.uk | www.photographia.co.uk
Web Standards Project (WaSP) Accessibility Task Force
Received on Monday, 9 January 2006 23:26:43 UTC

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