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Re: diacritic marks

From: Joe Clark <joeclark@joeclark.org>
Date: Wed, 4 Feb 2004 15:57:40 -0500 (EST)
To: WAI-GL <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.BSO.4.53.0402041551320.7577@mail.veldt.ca>

> We are happy with the current wording and prioritization of the success
> criteria. :)

Quite possibly that should be a warning sign.

> Background
> Some languages use diacritic marks to give the pronunciation of a word.
> In some languages (like Hebrew and Arabic) most spellings, without
> diacritic marks, can be resolved to more then one word. Use of context
> enables the average reader to work out what word was intended.
>  Natural language processing used in screen readers can often guess what
> word is intended without diacritic marks. However all screen readers
> will often make mistakes.

Then fix the screen readers, Lisa. Perhaps you'd like to take on that
project rather than advancing the preposterous idea that Web authors be
forced to write kiddie Hebrew and Arabic rather than the true forms
naturally used by adults.

> It is estimated (by ISOC -il - need to get refrences) that 3% of the
> population have a visually impaired memory which makes reading many
> words without diacritic marks extremely difficult. This segment of the
> population can use a screen reader to help them though the reading
> process. However when the screen reader guess a word incorrectly, they
> will often be unable to correct the mistake themselves, as guessing
> different pronunciation of words based on an identical spelling is
> difficult to impossible for many dyslexics.
> It should also be remembered that screen readers are difficult to use
> and are expensive.

But they may be the correct adaptive technology. Suddenly difficulty and
that perennial bugbear, expense, are insurmountable problems for this
group but not, say, for the totally blind or people with severe dyslexia?

> Vision impaired people using screen readers

Oh. So we're including them after all.

> are also affected by missing
> diacritic marks.  All screen readers will  make mistakes, and will
> pronounce the wrong word. This will occur more often then an incorrect
> word pronunciation makes grammatical sense.

That *sentence* doesn't.

> The user then has to guess
> the meaning of a sentence - by as guessing different pronunciation of
> words based on an identical spelling. This extra processing time on the
> users part means that they can not speed up the screen reader, and often
> have to reread passages.

This continues to be an argument for better screen readers and will hold
true for any language containing homographs, including English.

> Finally I want to personally thank everyone who help contribute and
> resolve this difficult issue.

It isn't anywhere near resolved. The proposal is unsound if not asinine,
as it ignores the reality of written Hebrew and Arabic. It will be laughed
at and ignored by authors if passed by Working Group members, who tend to
simply take orders from you without engaging their rational faculties.
Plus they don't know anything about writing systems, Richard Ishida


  Joe Clark  |  joeclark@joeclark.org
  Author, _Building Accessible Websites_
  <http://joeclark.org/access/> | <http://joeclark.org/book/>
Received on Wednesday, 4 February 2004 15:56:07 UTC

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