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WCAG and Diacritical Markings

From: Ryan McCalla <rmccalla@hawaii.edu>
Date: Thu, 11 Aug 2016 12:21:35 -1000
Message-ID: <cddf9bf5185622deb733846a909a7940@mail.gmail.com>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

Sorry if you’re seeing this message twice. Not sure if my first message was

My name is Ryan and I am the Accessibility Specialist for the IT department
at the University of Hawaiʻi. We are in a unique situation and I'm hoping
someone on this list can give us a little guidance.

All of our current sites and pages use correct Hawaiian spelling of words
and names with their correct diacritical markings. However, JAWS and NVDA
do not handle these special markings well. JAWS is the worst and sometimes
reads "Hawaiʻi" as "Hawai?i". The issue is that we want to be WCAG
compliant, but at the same time we want to recognize the Hawaiian language
and culture with the correct spelling and correct diacritical marks for
Hawaiian words and names. If we use diacritical marks, screen readers do
not handle/read them properly. If we don't use the proper spelling, we run
the risk of upsetting the native culture.

Is there anything that we can do to ensure that Hawaiian words/names get
spoken correctly by screen readers? Does accessibility trump culture and
language? If we continue to use diacritical markings (and assuming we have
no other issues), would we still meet WCAG compliance, even though screen
readers stumble through the page?

More info on Hawaiian Diacritics at


*Ryan McCalla*

ITS Staff

University of Hawaiʻi
Received on Thursday, 11 August 2016 22:22:06 UTC

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