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RE: Punctuation in lists

From: Bruce Bailey <bbailey@clark.net>
Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2000 09:32:33 -0400
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Cc: <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>
Message-ID: <000701bfaacc$e1f8ea20$53fe330a@msde>
Dear all,

My thanks to the people who have responded off the list as well.

This has been very interesting to me.  I did not realize this issue was so

Since addressing this problem is helpful, why is there not a P3 checkpoint
associated with this?

What mark-up, using CSS, would people suggest, as the "right" way to fix
this problem?  This may be kind of moot since aural style sheets are not
supported anywhere.  By the time they are, I would hope that the new crop of
screen readers would be fixed so that they automatically pause after

As an interim solution, I like Phil's technique for making some punctuation
invisible.  Phil, could you share a URL where you implement this?  I have
see "invisible" text used to hide speech-oriented menus, for a good example,
see URL:

How common do people think this kind of technique is?
Do people think this technique is advisable?
Does HTML or CSS support a "transparent" color for text?


> You are correct that both the screen reader and the synthesizer affect how
> lists are pronounced, but synthesizers speak what they are told.
> One needs
> to understand the "string of characters" that are sent to the synthesizer
> by the screen reader.  For example:
> List 1:
>      First item
>      Second item
>      Third item
> Next paragraph ...
> Most screen readers and self-voicing browsers will send the entire string
> of characters to the synthesizer and NOT add any punctuation that is not
> there.  Bullets in front of the list items are not punctuation in the
> synthesizer sense, so the above example would be spoken without any pauses
> as in the following:
> List 1: First item Second item Third item Next paragraph ...
> Since, in my opinion, lists are just reformatted sentences with commas, it
> would be appropriate for the screen reader and self voicing browser to
> attach a comma or semi colon to the end of each list item before sending
> the string of characters to the synthesizer - but most do NOT currently.
> For example.  List 1: First item; Second item; Third item.  Next paragraph
> ...
> So, I also have a habit of adding the punctuation my self, but in
> invisible
> ink, white text on white background, so users of text browser might "see"
> the punctuation, the common user of the graphical browser would NOT  "see"
> the punctuation.  The screen reader and self-voicing browser user would
> hear the pause after each list item, as it should be.  Once the screen
> readers and self-voicing browsers automatically add the punctuation for
> better sounding speech, I will remove the explicit invisible punctuation.
> By the way, the same problem occurs after headings.  When reading in
> "automatic or read on" mode, the punctuation is not there unless added by
> the screen reader or self voicing browser.  Those screen readers and
> voicing browsers that parse the HTML, should be able to more
> easily add the
> appropriate punctuation.  Of course when reading just the heading, or
> navigating the list, the self-voicing browsers, such as IBM Home Page
> Reader, correctly pause and or stop at the end of each heading or list
> item.
> This is a requirement for the assistive technology vendors - not for the
> authors of web pages to fix.  In my opinion, fixing the relative few
> assistive technologies would be a lot more cost effective than requesting
> billions of web sites to add grammatically incorrect punctuation
> to the end
> of the lists.
> Regards,
> Phill Jenkins
Received on Thursday, 20 April 2000 09:36:01 UTC

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