[whatwg] @Irrelevant [was: Re: Thoughts on HTML 5]

Nicholas C. Zakas html at nczonline.net
Fri Feb 29 09:54:08 PST 2008

If the true purpose of the irrelevant attribute is to aid in accessibility, then I think the name is completely wrong. The term "irrelevant" is confusing because, as I stated before, why would anyone include content in a page that is irrelevant? What you really need is a way to say "this is relevant only for non-visual UA's". Perhaps a better attribute name would be "nonvisual"?


----- Original Message ----
From: James Graham <jg307 at cam.ac.uk>
To: html at nczonline.net
Cc: whatwg at lists.whatwg.org
Sent: Friday, February 29, 2008 3:58:25 AM
Subject: @Irrelevant [was: Re: [whatwg] Thoughts on HTML 5]

html at nczonline.net wrote:

> I would like something to indicate that text should not be rendered by the UA
but still remain accessible. Content that should be available to screen readers
but not have a visual representation is, in fact, relevant.

Indeed, which is why such content would not have @irrelevant set. It is content 
that should be ignored in all UAs would have @irrelevant set. At the moment AT 
generally tries to infer semantics from the presentation layer (this is 
display:none so it must be irrelevant), which is why hacks like the one you 
describe are needed. The irrelevant attribute allows these semantics to be 
encoded at the markup layer.

The biggest problem I can see with this argument for @irrelevant is that it's 
not quite clear to how to get from where we are today (AT takes account of CSS 
CSS display properties rather than markup) to the behavior described above. If 
rendering display:none content that doesn't have the irrelevant attribute set 
results in a significantly worse web experience than not doing so then AT 
vendors will presumably be reluctant change behavior. We probably need some 
investigation into the effect that this change would have on the user experience 
for AT users.

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  -- Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

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