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Re: How do assistive technologies handle icon fonts?

From: Chaals McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru>
Date: Tue, 01 Dec 2015 11:11:48 +1000
To: "Web Accessibility Initiative Interest Group" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, "Phill Jenkins" <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>
Message-ID: <op.x8ymlyzes7agh9@widsith.local>
On Tue, 01 Dec 2015 16:45:57 +1000, Phill Jenkins <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>  

> I understand the immediate "almost certain need for workarounds" for
> screen readers and magnifiers, but has anyone queried the developers of
> the ATs?
>         What say ye:
>         1. Freedom Scientific regarding JAWS and MAGic?
>         2. NVDA?
>         3. A I Squared Zoom Text with Speech?
>         4. Microsoft Window-Eyes and other Windows assistive  
> technologies?
>         5. Apple VoiceOver and other iOS assistive technologies?
>         6. Google Talkback and other Android assistive technologies?
>         etc.?
> Just like we need status and roadmaps from browser manufactures, this
> interest group also needs that same feedback and committment from the AT
> developers too!
> Placing, and especially placing the burden on the bazillion web  
> developers to constantly develop workarounds and half baked hacks,
> instead of lobbying and driving the relative small number of AT
> developers, is an inefficient and loosing battle this group seems to
> fall into over and over in my opinion.

While I agree in general, icon fonts is in fact a half-baked hack on the  
part of web developers.

Using e.g. SVG instead, which has received investment from many developers  
and many software developers, provides the AT developers with the  
necessary hooks to make content accessible - and I would rather they  
focused their efforts in that area, since they generally still have a long  
way to go.

Icon fonts, by their nature, are an approach for which a lot of half-baked  
hackery is required if you are going to make them somewhat accessible.

SVG has been claimed to be capable of making longdesc irrelevant - but  
there needs to be a lot of work on browsers, assistive technology, and the  
way people produce graphics before that happens.

On the other hand, it does at least offer the requirements to do what  
people do with icon fonts, but in ways that can be made accessible - and  
not just to screenreader users.

And using a technology that is equally applicable to larger diagrams,  
meaning we don't need to use so many specialist tools to build the Web.  
Which is another trap this group falls into far too easily, for example in  
the tendency to see ARIA as the go-to solution for more problems than it  
can effectively solve.


Charles McCathie Nevile - web standards - CTO Office, Yandex
  chaals@yandex-team.ru - - - Find more at http://yandex.com
Received on Tuesday, 1 December 2015 10:12:31 UTC

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