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Re: Interactive Glossary


From: Simius Puer
Date: Jul 8, 2010 7:06AM

There have been discussions on this list regarding a similiar but not quite
identical topic - the <abbr> tag. Whilst not exactly the same problem it has
many of the same issues - the technical implementation, how to cater for
multiple disability types and the repetition on the page.


One of the main points that often gets overlooked is one that I'm glad
Deborah raised in her reply - that of Universal Design. Too often the
'solutions' developed only cater for the visually able and those who rely on
AT due to vision loss (the polar-opposites if you like) whilst missing out
on a plethora of other disability types such as limited vision and cognitive

I won't go over all the points raised in the previous threads but to
summarise the highlights:

- Consider the mechanism itself and how it will work (or not) for each
disability type

Whilst the issues surrounding pop-ups are well documented I don't think
an iframe is an acceptable alternative. The question of focus raises it's
ugly head - not only from an AT perspective but also for those with
cognitive issues (and I don't just mean disabilities - consider how older
generations or less web-savvy people use the internet - usability studies
would no doubt highlight plenty of problems with this approach)

- Consider the repetition of the definitions - you can't simply 'expand'
the first instance as not everyone reads a document top-to-bottom, but you
also don't want to force anyone to listen to the full description on every

- From a real-world perspective you also need to consider SEO and user
choice also - think Universal Design, not just accessibility.

If you want to see more detail on those points please see:

Jared has quite rightly pointed out [
http://www.webaim.org/discussion/mail_thread.php?thread=4232#post37] that
there is no ideal solution at the moment and we need to look to the W3C to
expand how user agent handle certain elements...sadly as we all know that
isn't going to happen overnight.

My suggestion would be to go low-tech (at least in terms of what the user
agent/website front-end needs to do) - create your links along the lines of

<a href="glossary#term" name="id87687" title="Glossary entry for [term]"

- The addition of the title tag allows you to differentiate between a
regular link one to the glossary. I am not 100% convinced this is necessary
but maybe some AT users could give feedback here? The simple idea is to
empower the user by giving them that little bit more information about the
link purpose.

- The addition of class="glossary" enables you to do something visually
equivalent for sighted users (the title tag does display on hover but is
easily missed).

- The addition of the name attribute is to enable the developer to
include an additional on page "back" button by passing this attribute to the
glossary page for inclusion in the link back to the article. This is simply
an addition to the back button to make it a little easier for those with
cognitive issues. Yes, there is a much easier way to do this with
JavaScript back buttons that use the 'referrer' value but what about those
without/blocking JS?

A very simple solution and hopefully one that should prove accessible to as
many people as possible. Don't forget to add a simple "glossary" link to
your navigation too.

Now, once you have your solid solution in place - then you can get clever
and perhaps offer additional layers of functionality such as showing the
glossary explanation in a side-panel.

Of course, you would need to consider any additional functionality carefully
so that the implementation itself is accessible (1 - you don't want this to
confuse AT users, 2 - I say "offer" as you probably want this turned off by
default so as to keep it simple for those with cognitive difficulties) but
it would allow you to do something a little more fancy for your non-disabled
users (and possibly keep your bosses happy). Hopefully you may find this
additional complexity unnecessary once you have the simple solution in
place, but if you do go down that road then don't forget to test for
usability too ;]