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Re: How do assistive technologies handle icon fonts?

From: Patrick H. Lauke <redux@splintered.co.uk>
Date: Tue, 1 Dec 2015 10:49:57 +0000
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <565D7B55.3040801@splintered.co.uk>
On 01/12/2015 06:45, Phill Jenkins wrote:
> 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.?

It would be amazing if developers working on these ATs were to actually 
actively engage in conversations here on the list, in a similar way that 
browser vendor developers do on, say, HTML/CSS/web platform lists. Alas, 
in most cases (particularly for large commercial products like JAWS) it 
seems that there's little effort on their part to do so...

Having said that, as Chaals already pointed out, the use of icon fonts 
itself is a hack, a perversion of technology to make it do something 
it's not really meant for. And I doubt that there can be a programmatic 
solution at the AT level for this, as there's no way (barring the 
introduction of heuristics, which always ends up with problems down the 
line relating to false positives/false negatives) for the software to 
recognise whether some CSS-generated text is meant to be used as an icon 
(and should therefore not be voiced, with the assumption that some 
alternative text has somehow been provided in another way), or is 
actually some valid content to be read out.

> 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 expecially placing the burden on the bazillion web
> developers to constannly 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.

Without AT vendors actively making an effort to engage with developers 
(for which I've seen little evidence in the last 15 or so years), 
there's little we developers can do right here, right now, other than 
divining solutions and workarounds to some of the often inscrutable AT 
behavior...

P
-- 
Patrick H. Lauke

www.splintered.co.uk | https://github.com/patrickhlauke
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Received on Tuesday, 1 December 2015 10:50:17 UTC

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