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Re: Use of abbr for the scientiifc equivalent of a vernacularname

for

From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Apr 30, 2008 11:00AM


Andy Mabbett wrote:

> Can anyone see any accessibility issues with this pattern:
>
> <abbr title="Passer domesticus">House Sparrow</abbr>

The approach is fundamentally wrong, so any accessibility considerations
are of secondary importance.

But if you want to have a specifically accessibility-related argument,
in addition to the five or six arguments why the approach is just all
wrong, here's one:

The scientific name in the title attribute, though not a "Latin name" in
a genuine sense (the Latin name for the house sparrow is just "passer",
not /Passer domesticus/, the proper spelling and presentation of the
binomial scientific name), definitely consists of Latin words more than
anything else. Thus, the markup violates checkpoint 4.1 in WCAG 1.0, a
Priority 1 item:

"Clearly identify changes in the natural language of a document's text
and any text equivalents (e.g., captions)."

There is no way in HTML to declare the language in an attribute as
different from the content of the element.

Moreover, the markup violates the semantics of HTML. The abbr element
means "abbreviation", and whatever _that_ is, it surely does not cover
expressions like "House Sparrow" that aren't any abbreviations. There is
no rule against grossly illogical markup in general in WCAG 1.0 (they
just tell you to "properly" mark up headers, lists, list items, and
quotations) but this is a flaw in WCAG 1.0.

> Perhaps we need a <pseudonym> element? ;-)

No, we need to stop thinking that data should be hidden in attributes.

Jukka K. Korpela ("Yucca")
http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/