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Re: Ruby Markup - Not Rails

From: Charles McCathieNevile <chaals@opera.com>
Date: Wed, 06 Feb 2008 11:26:51 +0530
To: "Simon Evans" <simon.evans@rixcentre.org>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Cc: "Anne van Kesteren" <annevk@opera.com>, "George Chavchanidze" <giorgic@opera.com>
Message-ID: <op.t529g1sowxe0ny@widsith.local>

On Wed, 06 Feb 2008 04:02:43 +0530, Simon Evans  
<simon.evans@rixcentre.org> wrote:

> Hello,
>
> Do people here think that adopting ruby markup for AAC symbols be viewed  
> as abuse of purpose? In some applications symbols are custom character  
> sets,
> but most often symbols are images. Use of img as the ruby base validates  
> OK under xhtml1.1 - but is it wrong to use images, maybe vectors and  
> suchlike as ruby base text?

I think it is a fine use of Ruby. Ruby uses a tradition still prevalent in  
East Asia to provide a glossing mechanism for a short run of text that may  
be complicated to understand. This was in fact very common in Europe once  
upon a time, for the same reasons - that literacy levels varied  
enormously, and I think the AAC case is exactly the same although the  
symbols used are more visually meaningful than the ones I am using to  
write this email.

> How are screen readers and other AT likely to approach more complex ruby

In the image case, where you can also use the alt attribute to provide  
information to screen readers, you have a couple of choices. The simple  
one is not to use ruby at all, and assume people will read either the text  
or the symbols.

My anecdotal experience, and understanding of research quoted that I have  
not studied deeply, suggests that it makes sense in many cases to provide  
both the symbols and the text (the most recent example I saw was research  
done into using icons for mobile phone interfaces, but the fact that you  
can do this with common software such as browsers suggests it is hardly  
new). You could do this either by using ruby, or perhaps by using ruby CSS  
properties along with the "attr" and "content" constructs from CSS. The  
problem with the latter solution (which would be more elegant) is, as  
usual, IE's patchy CSS support - but if they implement those basic  
generated content things, you could do things nicely.

In any case, you can use styles to easily switch on/off the ruby texts -  
screen readers follow the screen presentation (as their name implies), so  
rt {display:none} should give you just the base text or alt attributes.

...

> Is there a better way to achieve this using html alone, one which  
> maintains the semantics - ie a link between symbol and qualifier - or a
> more complex tiered relationship between several symbols, their
> qualifiers and a run of text.

In HTML 5 there is a proposal to have something like an image and a  
caption, which would replicate what you are doing with Ruby. The HTML 5  
draft claims that an image is actually an interchangeable replacement for  
a piece of text - while I think that is a bit simplistic, it would in  
principle lend support to the idea that using ruby to explain the image as  
you would with text is semantically valid (in which case you would not  
need the captioning element to be image specific).

> Do people feel Ruby is likely to get better browser support anytime soon?
> [right now only IE7 and Firefox with the ruby+xhtml extension seem to
> support it].

It is possible in the new Opera beta [1] to support basic ruby with CSS.  
If there is demand for ruby then we will look at implementing. But before  
Anne vanK jumps on me I should point out that the HTML group would need  
time to look at what to do in various error cases and so on before we can  
expect them to adopt it in the spec. That said, I personally like ruby  
markup, and think it would be good to have it available for this kind of  
usage (as well as the common existing use cases).

> Notes:
> If you're not familiar with AAC symbols http://www.askability.org.uk/ is  
> a site which uses them in what has become the conventional way - where  
> tables are used to maintain the visual-vertical position of symbols over
> their qualifying text [particularly, maintain position when CSS is not in
> use or defined locally] - text position and visual association with text
> is central to their usage, its not just aesthetics.

I'm not a big fan of the tables approach in general - I don't think it is  
very semantically sensible, and it collapses worse than plain ruby markup  
where tables are unsupported (e.g. long tables on mobile browsers) because  
of the table structure in HTML, but I guess it is a reasonable hack for  
many current use cases :S

> Another approach toward ensuring the correct visual placement of the
> qualifying text is to make it part of the image and use it as the
> alternative text: eg Widgit's own site - http://www.symbolworld.org/.

Yeah, I hate this approach because it means you have trouble selecting the  
text, magnifying it, etc...

cheers

Chaals

-- 
Charles McCathieNevile  Opera Software, Standards Group
     je parle français -- hablo español -- jeg lærer norsk
http://my.opera.com/chaals   Try Opera 9.5: http://snapshot.opera.com
Received on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 05:57:21 GMT

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