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Re: WCAG 2 draft and abbreviations


From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: May 31, 2007 10:30AM

On Thu, 31 May 2007, Peter Weil wrote:

> My colleagues and I are trying to come up with some best practices
> for tagging and expanding abbreviations and acronyms.

It's mostly futile. The important things are
a) to avoid abbreviations
b) to explain them loud and clear in content proper if you use them.

Whether a word is an acronym is irrelevant for most practical purposes.
If you know what "radar" means, you don't need to know how the word was
formed, and the history wouldn't even help you much if you didn't know the

> Most copy we
> receive contains a large number of these things -- alas, we have no
> control over this.

If you _cannot_ control the content, you cannot be held responsible for
its accessibility or other qualities. If you just _don't_, it's a
different matter.

> We all agree that including tags with expansions or explanations is
> the best technique currently available

No we don't. Tagging abbreviations is virtually useless, and partly
harmful (e.g., when it creates an enigmatic "dotted underline"). I thought
this was fairly well known about people who actually aim at accessibility.

There is no evidence on the usefulness of such markup. If a user needs an
explanation for an expression - be it a special symbol, a difficult word,
or an abbreviation - it is certainly a bad idea to hide such information
inside an attribute, instead of making it available and accessible to all.

> Example: "The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
> (UNHCR) was established in 1950 to provide protection and assistance
> to refugees."

That's fine. If you need to refer to the institution later on the same
page, just use the abbreviation you have explained. You don't need any
tags for that.

> This brings up another question: do the abbreviation and acronym tags
> (aside from their semantic correctness) in and of themselves help in
> any way with accessibility, or is the expansion (title attribute)
> always needed to make them useful?

The answer is simple: No.
(I'm intentionally reading the question differently from what you meant.)

Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/