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Re: Special Characters


From: Paul Bohman
Date: Aug 23, 2001 1:36PM

[Holly] A situation came up where I had a company name with the small
"TM" following it.
however in NN4.78 the special character code name - & trade ; - did
not work and the character code showed on the page
[Paul] It's true. Netscape 4.x does not do html special characters very
[Holly] I have been given some ideas and recall other ways to work this.
use the numeric character codes-- "& #153 ;" or "& #8482 ;"
or use html...
Company <small > < sup >TM < /sup > < /small >
etc. I suppose I could toss a title="trademark" or alt="trademark" in
the sup tag?
[Paul] The above would probably work alright.
[Holly] or make a small image gif with alt="trademark" in it too.
[Paul] This is my least favorite of the examples that you gave, because,
even though not all the special characters work in Netscape 4.x, they do
exist, and it is better to use the real thing, I think, rather than a
[Holly] Do screen readers support and read special character sets or code?
And if they do read these codes, do they translate a copy symbol code to
copyright, and trade to trademark or the number coding to the
appropriate full symbol?
[Paul] Jaws and Home Page Reader support many of the HTML special
characters, such as trademark, copyright, dollar, yen, euro, pound, section,
and others. They don't support some of the lesser-used characters. Both Jaws
and HPR read the full expansion of the special characters.
[Holly] Which would be the best way to display and code for these items? My
thinking is that without an alt or title attribute around the letters -
TM, - will end up sounding like - T and M - and may not be clear into
[Paul] My preference would be to use the official characters (e.g. &trade;).
I know that they won't show up correctly in Netscape 4.x, but they show up
just fine in the current version of Netscape (6.1), as well as in Opera.
They are pronounced correctly by modern screen readers, and they are
meaningful in a textual sense. A graphic of a trademark symbol does not have
the same semantic purpose as the real symbol, even if they look the same
visually. Some people may have a stronger desire to have things look right
in older, out-of-date browsers than I do. Most assistive technologies do not
work well with Netscape 4.x, so from a disability access perspective, I
consider Netscape to be much less important. On the other hand (I can argue
both sides here), you might say that people who use the special characters
which are not supported by Netscape 4.x are excluding the users of Netscape
from full accessibility. This is a valid point, but it is a point that
concerns me much less, when you are only talking about trademark symbols,
copyright symbols and such. To me, these are important in a legal sense, but
not really in other ways.

[Holly] Is unicode supported by all readers or most? what about math symbols
squared and cubed and also fractions and other math symbols?
[Paul] Math is another animal. There are special characters for "divided
by", "multiplied by" and so on. These are read well by screen readers. If
you get more complex than that, however, things quickly enter a new arena of
complexity and in accessibility. There is a markup language called MathML
which has been developed so that equations can be marked up successfully and
accurately on the Web. The only browser of which I am aware which supports
MathML is Amaya, the experimental browser of the W3C. There are plug-ins
which can be purchased from IBM and other vendors which allow MathML to be
rendered in a browser, but none of them are accessible to screen readers.
There is also a project which is trying to come up with solutions for the
math markup problem by converting equations into audio output. From what I
understand, this is still a work in progress. At this point, I have to admit
that I don't know what the best solution for math equations is, other than
providing a pre-recorded audio file. Of course, this still shuts out those
who access the content through Braille alone.
Paul Bohman
Technology Coordinator
WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind)
Utah State University