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Re: screen reader reporting of negative values

From: Sailesh Panchang <sailesh.panchang@deque.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2013 14:37:13 -0400
Message-ID: <CAJi9CqqiUcf6DmR_Mkv_oac6dT8atWmYGXnnZy3H2Gfw607AXA@mail.gmail.com>
Cc: W3C WAI ig <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
- Excel allows one to represent negative numbers with a minus sign or
- Yes, credit card statements generally use the minus sign
- In my first post I said "financial statements"  and almost any
accountant will confirm that it is indeed standard practice to use
parenthesis for negative numbers in accounting / financial statements.
Most accounting programs use that.
Take a look at financial statements like the income statement /
Balance Sheet / Cash Flow for a company on finance.yahoo.com for
And when these statements are converted into PDF, one has  numbers
within parenthesis. Tagging PDF files is a big  and laborious  task;
will someone volunteer to  put in the equivalent of off-screen text
there besides?

Yes as Jonathan pointed out, it depends on the context. If it is a
statement of expenses and expenses are listed as positive numbers, a
credit may be represented as a negative number or in parenthesis.

And as Jennifer said, when one is reviewing monetary figures or any
numerical data that is critical to the user and signs matter, the
reader will take the trouble to turn on all punctuations or discover
what will make the signs read by the screen reader.

More importantly, what authors should try to correct  is:
- use of colors only to represent negative numbers or
- placing the sign in a column before the column that contains the
figures. (And that other column may be empty if there no numbers with
-ve signs or may  be an untitled column which is even more confusing).

Let users use their screen readers, set to announce punctuations as
they choose, font changes etc. and read acronyms as  words or by
making the screen reader spell them out when they do not understand

Using off-screen text to represent signs is  an unnecessary  use of
that technique. Over use of a technique when not needed may itself
introduce unintended usability problems for users.

Sailesh Panchang
Received on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 18:37:40 UTC

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