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Re: Text direction, CSS and accessibility

From: Chris Croome <chris@webarchitects.co.uk>
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2002 11:22:18 +0000
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <20020224112218.GB21493@webarchitects.co.uk>

On Sun 24-Feb-2002 at 09:13:53 +0000, David Woolley wrote:
> > Therefore would I be correct in deducting that there is no point in
> > setting text direction using CSS [2] since it has to be set in the
> > document using the dir attribute in order to be accessible?
> My understanding is that it should very rarely need to be set in the
> document as the use of Arabic Unicode characters should automatically
> trigger the relevant direction change.

Then why does the HTML4 spec have a whole page dedicated to how the dir
attribute should be used [1], why is the a big section in CSS2 on this
matter [2] and why are the Unicode Consortium and the W3C producing
notes with sections of the use of the dir attribute [3]? 

> I'd caution, though, that few browsers can actually cope with right to
> left text and you might need to give specific overrides if you start
> with text as images.  

I'm not planning to use any text for images (apart from logos etc).

> Even IE doensn't support the style of Arabic script normally used for
> Urdu, as far as I can recall; at one stage, this had to be hand
> written in newspapers even though the other form could be typeset or
> typewritten.

I've not come across any Unicode Urdu myself yet, but the Hebrew [4] and
Persian [5] pages on the Unicode site seem to work fine in Windows and
Linux (and these pages _do_ specify the direction of the text).

In mozilla the Hewbrew page has a H1 that, visually, _starts_ with 
"(Unicode)? ... ", if you edit the page locally and remove dir="rtl", then
open it you get the H1 _ending_ with " ... (Unicode)?".

This indicates to me that the direction attribute _is_ needed in the
current generation of browsers and also that if the direction was set
using CSS that this would go against the WAI WCAG Priority 1 guideline
that documents should be accessible _without_ CSS [6].

So back to my original question -- is it the case that one should not
use CSS for setting direction since this seems to go against the WCAG?


[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/struct/dirlang.html

[2] http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2/visuren.html#direction

[3] http://www.w3.org/TR/2002/NOTE-unicode-xml-20020218/#Bidi

[4] http://www.unicode.org/unicode/standard/translations/hebrew.html

[5] http://www.unicode.org/unicode/standard/translations/persian.html

[6] http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/wai-pageauth.html#tech-order-style-sheets

Chris Croome                               <chris@webarchitects.co.uk>
web design                             http://www.webarchitects.co.uk/ 
web content management                               http://mkdoc.com/   
everything else                               http://chris.croome.net/  
Received on Sunday, 24 February 2002 06:21:28 UTC

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