W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > January to March 1999

emotica, ASCII art and accessibility - some suggestions

From: <waz@easynet.co.uk>
Date: Fri, 15 Jan 1999 16:02:10 +0000
Message-ID: <369F6682.7517@easynet.co.uk>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
In terms of proposing ASCII representations for things in online
communication, without regard to whether or not the 'Air Hug' suggestion
is something that will or will not catch on, the following things
occurred to me:

Things divide into two categories here - the small scale, 'inline'
emoticon type ASCII stuff, like smileys, and the large scale graphical
extravaganzas of full-blown multi-line ASCII artwork. Neither one is
intrinsically accessible, and in terms of the second, I believe that the
fact that there are as many accessiblity problems as there are with
other kinds of graphics will not stop anyone from using it. ASCII art is
out there and will not die - it is a shame that it is in the category of
artwork that cannot necessarily be appreciated by all, but perhaps those
who cannot see it will come to regard it in the same way that I
personally regard opera - I ignore it and save time. The sensible
compromise seems to me to suggest that ASCII art should only be used in
sites and documents that either relate to ASCII art itself or that have
some other kind of intrinsic accessibility issue. A special kind of PRE
tag would be good, with an ALT of some sort, and then we could use ASCII
art, and would have some way of making it accessible and dealing with
the large online legacy of currently inaccessible-due-to-ascii-artwork

Meanwhile, the inline emoticons and smileys are so widely distributed
online as to have attained, as far as I can tell, the equivalent of
language status, in a sense, so it isn't a question of telling people to
stop using them, because they wont. Perhaps a solution might be to get
screen readers to have a list of the most commonly used ones and
translate them accordingly. Such a list could be managed centrally by
the WAI, in the form of a simple text file, with each line containing
the emoticon and the description seperated by tabs (or something), which
screenreaders could update the latest version of on a regular basis and
use to translate every :), :-) X| and ~;) they come across. and it
should be two way - with an 'insert' smiley option - after all, why
shouldn't users of screenreaders be able to use 'winking smiley' or
whatever as well as anyone.

Maintaining this file would be a reasonable amount of work, I imagine,
especially as there may not be universal agreement on the best way to
translate each of the major emoticons into each language required, but
it seems to me worthwhile in the sense that I feel strongly that
solutions to accessibility issues ought to try to bring everyone in to
what is already there, not to reduce what is already there to what
everyone can already see, as well as making sure that all the new stuff
is universally accessible too.

I would be happy to help sort this out to the extent that I am able,
though I am not an expert on either emoticons or screenreaders -
certainly there already exist many listings of 'yer basic online
emoticons' - and I thought I'd seen one on the w3c site itself once
(though I can't find it right now) - surely it's just a question of
finding a list to build a canonical central list from, making sure the
suggestion gets directed at screenreader writers and sorting it out with
next versions of screenreader software. do no current screenreaders have
a 'set this sequence of characters to mean this phrase' option? forwards
or backwards?

Apologies if this has all been hashed over before.

cheers etc.,


> The idea of an 'Air Hug' may be great but ..those slashes and dots are not
> very helpful for those of us who use screen readers. I would not like to see
> their use expanded.
> Marti
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Robert C. Neff <rcn@fenix2.dol-esa.gov>
> To: 'w3c-wai-ig@w3.org' <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
> Date: Friday, January 15, 1999 8:27 AM
> Subject: suggestion
> >To those who are not familiar with the slang "Air Hug", here is an example.
> > If you appreciate what someone has done and this act warrants a hug but
> >are separated by distance (short, long, or over the internet) and cannot
> >render the hug. You can extend your arms and pretend to hug and say "Air
> >Hug"
> >
> >As I have not seen an ascii representation for an "Air Hug",  I propose <
> >\../ > and for a "GREAT BIG AIR HUG" < \\..// >
> >
> >Obviously I am in a good mood!
> >
> >Rob
> >
Received on Friday, 15 January 1999 11:02:44 UTC

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