E-mail List Archives

Re: The title attribute and screen readers


From: Jared Smith
Date: Jun 25, 2007 9:20AM

On 6/25/07, Paul Collins wrote:

> After reading the WCAG1 errata by the WCAG Samurai recently, I came
> across this one which got my curiosity:

Please note that the WCAG Samurai is in draft right now. The final
version is due to be released this week, so things may change. And
this is one of several points in the Samurai that is in conflict with
conventional accessibility recommendations.

> I was always under the impression that the title attribute would not
> be read out by default using the bulk of screen readers and therefore
> it should not be used to convey vital information like a popup window
> about to occur.

I agree. This really depends on how you interpret the words "advisory
information" from the HTML spec regarding title attribute. Joe and the
gang seem to interpret it to mean that it can contain more important
or even vital information. Most accessibility recommendations today
suggest limiting title to non-vital, supplementary information. Much
of this, however, arises from the fact that screen readers didn't have
an option for reading title until recently.

> Can anyone give me their thoughts on the title attribute and how they are using
> it currently?

I use it only for supplementary information. While screen readers
*may* read it, most will not. Ever. The title attribute is much abused
and I imagine most screen reader users would rather ignore the garbage
than catch the occasional tidbit of useful information they contain.

Also, there is no method for keyboard only access to title information
for sighted keyboard users. This is entirely a user agent issue, but
is another check mark against using title for important information.

> However, if titles were now to
> be read out with screen reading software, this would become really
> annoying as it would be read out twice. EG:
> <h1 class="replace" title="This is a heading"><em></em>This is a heading</h1>

Yes, it would be annoying. This example does seem to be contradictory
to the "advisory information" language of the spec. However, you could
certainly argue that "This is an important heading" would be advisory.

Without some clarification of the specification itself, we'll continue
to have divergent opinions on the use of title. Until then, I'm going
to take a fairly conservative approach to their use.

Jared Smith