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Accessible P Tag Usage


From: Peter Shikli
Date: Mar 16, 2019 4:05PM

Access2online audits webpages and electronic documents for compliance
with WCAG and Section 508. As our understanding of WCAG has deepened and
evolved, several times we have been confronted with the situation where
one section of the guideline implies or directly contradicts another
section or another resource such as WAVE, AXE, or Deque training
materials. We often seem to be too strict interpreting the guidelines
related to 1.3.1. Much of guideline would certainly improve usability,
but we are aware of the difference between accessibility and usability.
We would like input from the accessibility community about what to do
when such a situation arises as in the following examples.

The 1.3.1 Info and Relationships states "Information, structure, and
relationships conveyed through presentation can be programmatically
determined or are available in text."  Further in the "Understanding SC
1.3.1" it says "When such relationships are perceivable to one set of
users, those relationships can be made to be perceivable to all."
Looking at specific failure conditions, F43 tells us that structural
markup cannot be used in a way that does not represent relationship in
the content. Then G115 says:

    "... Using the appropriate semantic elements will make sure the
structure is available to the user agent. This involves explicitly
indicating the role that different units have in understanding the
meaning of the content. The nature of a piece of content as a paragraph,
header, emphasized text, table, etc. can all be indicated in this way. ..."

The strictest interpretation of these items is that it is required that
relationships in content are programmatically available, including
content "... such as a paragraph ...". Is this to be taken as saying
text should, at a minimum, programmatically be a <p> tag, unless there
is a more appropriate structural tag?

We are aware that the sufficient techniques do not constitute required
ways of doing things, so we are hesitant to violate a customer based on
the suggested ways of meeting the criteria. However, when a failure
condition says content must be semantically appropriate, then a
sufficient technique lists paragraphs as appropriate semantics for text
content, this implies that if text content is not in a <p> or a more
appropriate tag (like  headings, lists, etc.) it is not making the
relationship/information about the text "available to all users."

On the flip side, what about including an empty <p> tag with no text
content, or only an image?

Our concern arises from the fact that AXE and WAVE do not violate text
content which is not  included in a <p> or other semantically
appropriate tag and the Deque curriculum says very little about
semantics that is not addressing tables, headings and the like.
Deque/AXE suggests that having free-floating text included in an
HTML5/ARIA landmark is a minimal "best practice". What is the community
opinion on quandaries like this?

Peter Shikli
on behalf of inmate Juliette McShane