[whatwg] [HTML5] Accessibility question

Nicholas C. Zakas html at nczonline.net
Sat Mar 22 09:58:46 PDT 2008

Apologies for not replying sooner, I've been struck with a bit of the flu.

The problem I'm trying to solve is the case where you need descriptive text for screen readers but that text is not necessary for sighted users. For example, our accessibility guidelines at Yahoo! say that every unordered list (<ul>) should be preceeded by a header that describes its use. The header may say something like "Page options" or "Available styles" and we use CSS tricks (text-indent: -10000px;) to hide these headings from display while allowing screen readers to read them. To sighted users, the meaning of the list is apparent because they can see the visual treatments we've applied whereas blind users would just hear a list read out of context.

Another example is for buttons that make use of sprites. Something is implemented as a link but with a background image that's part of a sprite. The link needs to have descriptive text for screen readers but the text is unnecessary for sighted users as they can see the image. For example:

<a href="#" class="close"><span>Close</span></a>

For things like this, I usually end up using the same CSS trick mentioned above to move the "Close" text out of the way. Just looking at the HTML, it's not apparent that "Close" is not intended to seen. Whereas the following clears it up:

<a href="#" class="close"><span noview>Close</span></a>

Now I know from looking at the source code that "Close" is clearly not intended to be seen.


----- Original Message ----
From: Ian Hickson <ian at hixie.ch>
To: Nicholas C. Zakas <html at nczonline.net>
Cc: whatwg List <whatwg at whatwg.org>
Sent: Sunday, March 16, 2008 6:36:17 PM
Subject: Re: [whatwg] [HTML5] Accessibility question

On Sun, 16 Mar 2008, Nicholas C. Zakas wrote:
> I know the topic has come up a few times, but I'm still wondering if 
> HTML 5 should provide some sort of logic around content that should not 
> be displayed by browsers but should be read by screen readers. Perhaps a 
> "noview" boolean attribute on each element could be used to tell UAs not 
> to render the content but to report it to screen readers? Or maybe a 
> <noview/> element could be used to surround content that shouldn't be 
> displayed but should be accessible to screen readers?

Wouldn't hiding content from sighted viewers hurt accessibility for 
sighted viewers?

Could you elaborate more on what problem you are trying to solve?

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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