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Announcers for nested list items (was RE: ALT-attribute usage)

From: Harvey Bingham <hbingham@ACM.org>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 1997 01:58:48 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Greg Vanderheiden wrote
>The bullet discussion ...
>...The point is
>that if you don't announce item boundaries it may be difficult to tell
>where they start and end for items that wrap to the next line.
I agree announcers are needed.

>Ideally, in the future the user would be able to tell the browser to 
>pronounce or not pronounce the bullets.
>Then they could choose when and where it was helpful or not.
>Until then however, we need to provide guidelines for old browsers.

I agree the inclusion of the trailing ", " to separate the
announcer from that being announced should be part of the guidelines.

Interesting that the conventional typographic name "bullet" is being
propagated to cover any pi character used to announce an unordered list
item. "star, " is a shorter choice than "bullet, ". Other single-syllable 
choices are "disc, ", "square, ", and "dot, ".

When several distinct kinds of graphic bullet are used in the same 
unordered list, I believe the author should describe the distinction
intended. For example, two appropriate choices could be ALT="disc new, "
and ALT="disc, ". Alternatively, the author could just use "new, " and
"old, ". 

I've seen variant img bullets share a single graphic form, but change its 
color to suggest meaning. The color code is explained elsewhere in a legend.  
The ALT="..." can avoid the need for that indirection, if meaningful
content can substitute for the legend. Otherwise the ALT="red" could
show that original distinction and assume the user will recognize the
need for the legend, and remember what the color codes mean. 

An img bullet might be augmented to include the level bullet name, such as 
ALT="red disc, ".

I note that in HTML 3.2 and 4.0 the unordered list UL has in its
associated element type attlist a TYPE attribute with allowed values
(disc|square|circle). For these, the prefix announcer could pick up
their value to make the <UL TYPE="XXX"> equivalent of the ALT="XXX, " used 
on an IMG representing the bullet.

Should there be nests of unordered lists, the ALT="XXX, " value could be
specified consistent with those choices or others to indicate subordinate 
list items. 

A smart stylesheet could assign a hierarchy of these for consistency.
[But is the convention to use the same nesting depth bullet form if some
nesting levels are for ordered lists rather than unordered lists?, or
should the ordinal bullet form be used for nested unordered lists,
regardless of intermediate orderded lists in the nest?] For that matter,
is the consistency of XXX choice of significant importance for nested
lists? Or is this a pathological case that can be ignored? 

One enumeration style to show depth of nesting is:
1.  1.1.  1.1.1.  etc. An injected unordered list in that sequence
could have the announcer "1.1.star, ". Greg's suggestion for user control
over suppressing the announcer or not may be generalized. Should the user 
have the option of suppressing some number of levels from the prefix parts 
of such announcer?

Recursive lists permit arbitrarily deep nesting for which a finite ordered
list of XXX values can be exhausted. A practical rule would be to recycle 
the XXX values if needed. A finite stylesheet will have a problem covering 
the recursive cases of arbitrary depth, unless it has an extension rule.

Regards/Harvey Bingham
Received on Wednesday, 29 October 1997 02:00:12 UTC

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