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Re: HTML5 DL Element vs. WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria

From: Olaf Drümmer <olaf@druemmer.com>
Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2014 22:15:29 +0100
Cc: Olaf Drümmer <olaf@druemmer.com>
Message-Id: <D751F5FA-6F8B-4FDD-94E3-F7596A6AFED4@druemmer.com>
To: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
On 7 Feb 2014, at 20:11, Steve Green <steve.green@testpartners.co.uk> wrote:

> My view is that definition lists benefit absolutely no one. 


On 7 Feb 2014, at 20:29, Jan Eric Hellbusch <hellbusch@2bweb.de> wrote:

> Haven't seen <dir> in a while (next element after dl on that page).

I think this is pointing to the actual problem ….:

While admittedly I have never been a real HTML expert, I think it is fair to say that most of the HTML tags match concepts that immediately make sense to people, without prior education.  Headings, paragraphs, lists, tables and so forth are concepts that need no further explanation.

I guess if a survey was made among people coding for or developing content in HTML, over 90% of them would not be familiar with the concept of "definition lists". I am still struggling myself to think of use cases in any of the content I have been in charge of during the last twenty years where definition lists would have made any sense, or even provided added (semantic) value.

Definition lists look like somebody thought a while ago that special case handling was necessary for this special type of list, and introduced the definition list tags. In essence though, nobody needs definition lists. 

Interestingly, tagged PDF took a somehow smarter (at least from my point of view) approach by defining lists in a more generic fashion, and instead of limiting the thing in front of the actual  list item to bullets or numbers, left it open what type of content might be in front of the list item - could as well be a term that is in need of a definition, but could essentially be any kind of label followed by some other content (e.g. a statement followed by an example - which nobody would call a definition, right? Or maybe a Q&A seuqence, a question followed by an answer. Again, nobody would that a definition list, but it might make sense to structure or tag it as a list of pair-wise information; or in an interview, the name of the person currently speaking might be put in front of what that person was saying, etc. pp.).

Personally I think definition lists tags should be deprecated in HTML (because they never were widely adopted, nor even reasonably well understood by the majority of HTM users). In addition, the HTML concept of lists should be extended to accommodate certain list uses that are currently not well covered by the sets of list tags in HTML, such that it become possible to put something in front of a list item that is not generated content..

That some screen readers are struggling when it comes to supporting definition lists from my point of view is rather a symptom that goes back to a not so well conceived concept, than anything else. I find it difficult to blame them for silently omitting definition list support.

Received on Friday, 7 February 2014 21:15:52 UTC

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