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Re: <i>, <em> and font-style:italic in HTML 5

From: Ramón Corominas <listas@ramoncorominas.com>
Date: Thu, 24 Oct 2013 20:59:38 +0200
Message-ID: <52696E1A.2030602@ramoncorominas.com>
To: Thomas Birch <thomas_birch@ieci.es>
CC: davebest@cogeco.ca, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
I would say that the "common practice" argument is not an argument. The 
most common practice is indeed "to be inaccessible". There are many 
popular libraries that make even more weird uses of the HTML elements, 
but that doesn't mean that we will accept them because of the "common 

Anyway, the main issue with this use of <i> tags for icons is that they 
are usually left empty and the icon is inserted using some CSS 
background technique, which means that screen reader users and high 
contrast users receive no information at all.

The semantic of the <i> tag will probably not cause big issues, but if 
the screen reader user configures it to read the tag with a different 
tone of voice, his/her perception of the content might be a bit strange.


Thomas asked:

> I have a follow-up question related with the use of the <i> tag. When 
> testing a web site's accessibility, we found an extensive use of the 
> *<i> tag **in conjunction with icons*, such as:
> <i class="icon-right-default icon-white"></i>
> We raised an issue because we consider this use of the tag doesn't meet 
> the defined semantics, but we were replied that this use of the tag is 
> common practice, and that popular libraries such as Twitter Bootstrap 
> use the i tag for this purpose and it has no affect on accessibility.
> *Should this use of the tag be considered incorrect, or will the 
> semantics of the tag eventually evolve to include this common use?*
> Thank you very much for your time. Regards,
Received on Thursday, 24 October 2013 19:00:08 UTC

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