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Thread: Screen readers and telephone numbers

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Number of posts in this thread: 8 (In chronological order)

From: Ian Lloyd (Accessify.com)
Date: Mon, Mar 03 2003 8:45AM
Subject: Screen readers and telephone numbers
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What is the best way to mark up telephone numbers in
web pages to aid screen readers pronounce them
correctly?

Ideally, we don't really want a six-digit number
verbalised as "Three hundred and forty eight thousand,
two hundred and ninety one"!

Would appreciate your comments on this.

Regards



=====
Ian Lloyd
Accessify - http://www.accessify.com/
Who am i? - http://www.webstandards.org/about/bios/illoyd.html

__________________________________________________
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From: Dave Ferrick
Date: Mon, Mar 03 2003 9:18AM
Subject: RE: Screen readers and telephone numbers
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A stab in the dark, but how about having each number in an <li> and making
the list inline through the properties:

ul, li {
display: inline;
margin: 0;
padding: 0;
}


There may be some browser variants on what to id (you may need to add the
style to a containing <p> first) but with some effort, you can probably get
it to work across all platforms.

Dave Ferrick

-----Original Message-----
From: Ian Lloyd (Accessify.com) [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ]
Sent: Monday, March 03, 2003 10:39 AM
To: webaim
Subject: Screen readers and telephone numbers


What is the best way to mark up telephone numbers in
web pages to aid screen readers pronounce them
correctly?

Ideally, we don't really want a six-digit number
verbalised as "Three hundred and forty eight thousand,
two hundred and ninety one"!

Would appreciate your comments on this.

Regards



=====
Ian Lloyd
Accessify - http://www.accessify.com/
Who am i? - http://www.webstandards.org/about/bios/illoyd.html

__________________________________________________
Do You Yahoo!?
Everything you'll ever need on one web page
from News and Sport to Email and Music Charts
http://uk.my.yahoo.com


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From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Mon, Mar 03 2003 10:07AM
Subject: Re: Screen readers and telephone numbers
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On Mon, 3 Mar 2003, Ian Lloyd (Accessify.com) wrote:

> What is the best way to mark up telephone numbers in
> web pages to aid screen readers pronounce them
> correctly?

I have got the impression that screen readers read digit sequences either
digit by digit or as numbers, and some of them can be controlled by the
user in this respect. Naturally it would be better if documents could have
markup that indicates the logical meaning of a digit sequence (as an
integer or as a code number), and perhaps CSS code that would make
explicit suggestions on the reading style of each sequence. (We can hardly
expect programs to recognize phone numbers automatically.) But in reality,
that's really as futuristic as tel: URLs are.

So actually I don't think any markup or CSS will do any good. Verbal
explanations may. And writing the numbers themselves clearly helps.

Using CCITT/ITU-T E.123 conformant notations helps everyone. They're
standardized, and if programs will start recognizing phone numbers
it would be the first thing to try and cope with the standard notation.
There is a coarse summary of an old version of the E.123recommendation at
http://massis.lcs.mit.edu/telecom-archives/archives/technical/e-series.recommendations

I think the notation should be used without any hyphens or dashes, to
prevent the possibility of misinterpretations (e.g., as expressions with
minus signs). So the notations should be like
Telephone International +358 9 888 2675

> Ideally, we don't really want a six-digit number
> verbalised as "Three hundred and forty eight thousand,
> two hundred and ninety one"!

Quite right, but that's an inconvenience rather than an obstacle. It would
be more serious if there were no apparent audible information that says,
beforehand or even afterwards, that a telephone number is to follow.
(Consider a page where phone numbers are just preceded by images
of a telephone without alt text and could, by their appearance in the
linear reading order, be understand as just some code, or a number.)

From the viewpoint of accessibility in general, I would like to add that
the "Make it Simple: European Guidelines for the Production of
Easy-to-Read Information" document, available in different languages from
http://www.inclusion-europe.org/information/eetr.htm
contains the following recommendations on numbers:

"Numbers
- For dates use the full format 'Saturday, 26 September 1998'.
- Telephone numbers should be separated:
034-22.33.44 or 034-22 33 44
- Always use the numeral and not the equivalent word - even for numbers
below 10. For example 3, 67, 239.
- Never use roman numerals."

http://www.inclusion-europe.org/documents/SAD71EETRFI.pdf#page=17
(Yes, it is in PDF format. How typical. Anyway, it's worth reading.)

I think these particular principles on numbers are, with minor
reservations, applicable to texts in general, not just texts meant to be
easy-to-read in the specialized sense. But I don't think it's a good idea
to use extra hyphens or periods. Spaces are visually distinctive enough,
and even if they might make a screen reader treat the string as a long
number, "minus" and "period" could surely confuse too.

--
Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/


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From: Paul Bohman
Date: Mon, Mar 03 2003 10:32AM
Subject: RE: Screen readers and telephone numbers
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Ideally screen readers would be able to recognize phone numbers. Home Page
Reader *does* read phone numbers correctly (pronouncing each number
individually). Window Eyes does not. I don't believe JAWS does either, but I
don't currently have it installed.

Even so, people who use screen readers are generally able to understand
phone numbers when they are spoken. It is more confusing to new users than
to experienced users. As Jukka said, as long as the number is written in a
standard format, most screen reader users should be able to figure out that
it is a phone number. Having the text "phone number" next to the number
could minimize confusion if you think there may be some.

It is a screen reader issue more than a developer issue.

Paul Bohman
Technology Coordinator
WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind)
www.webaim.org
Center for Persons with Disabilities
www.cpd.usu.edu
Utah State University
www.usu.edu

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-----Original Message-----
From: Ian Lloyd (Accessify.com) [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ]
Sent: Monday, March 03, 2003 8:39 AM
To: webaim
Subject: Screen readers and telephone numbers


What is the best way to mark up telephone numbers in
web pages to aid screen readers pronounce them
correctly?

Ideally, we don't really want a six-digit number
verbalised as "Three hundred and forty eight thousand,
two hundred and ninety one"!

Would appreciate your comments on this.

Regards



=====
Ian Lloyd
Accessify - http://www.accessify.com/
Who am i? - http://www.webstandards.org/about/bios/illoyd.html

__________________________________________________
Do You Yahoo!?
Everything you'll ever need on one web page
from News and Sport to Email and Music Charts http://uk.my.yahoo.com


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From: Kynn Bartlett
Date: Mon, Mar 03 2003 12:24PM
Subject: Re: Screen readers and telephone numbers
← Previous message | Next message →


On Monday, March 3, 2003, at 09:25 AM, Paul Bohman wrote:

> Ideally screen readers would be able to recognize phone numbers. Home
> Page
> Reader *does* read phone numbers correctly (pronouncing each number
> individually). Window Eyes does not. I don't believe JAWS does either,
> but I
> don't currently have it installed.
>

Actually, recognition of phone numbers can be difficult when you factor
in
international numbers.

I would say instead that "ideally, screen readers would support Aural
style
sheets."

The speak-numeral CSS property is intended to address this very
question:

http://www.w3.org/TR/CSS2/aural.html#propdef-speak-numeral

'speak-numeral'

Value: digits | continuous | inherit
Initial: continuous
Applies to: all elements
Inherited: yes
Percentages: N/A
Media: aural

This property controls how numerals are spoken. Values have
the following meanings:

digits
Speak the numeral as individual digits. Thus, "237" is
spoken "Two Three Seven".

continuous
Speak the numeral as a full number. Thus, "237" is
spoken "Two hundred thirty seven". Word
representations are language-dependent.

Unfortunately, no screen readers support this, and even more
unfortunately,
the W3C has taken steps away from encouraging Aural CSS implementation
and use with the issuance of CSS 2.1.

As a stopgap measure, you could do something like this, in supported CSS
and HTML:

<span class="auralspacer"> </span>5<span class="auralspacer">
</span>5-<span
class="auralspacer"> </span>1<span class="auralspacer"> </span>2<span
class="auralspacer"> </span>1<span class="auralspacer"> </span>2

.auralspacer { display: none; }

@media all {
.auralspacer { display: inline; } }

@media screen {
.auralspacer { display: none; } }

@media print {
.auralspacer { display: none; } }

In theory, this would make the markup look like this:

5 5 5- 1 2 1 2

Which hopefully would be read as "five five five one two one two".

But when displayed on the screen or printed, it would look like this:

555-1212

Nassssty nassssty hack. But that's what happens when you don't have
support for good and necessary standards, such as Aural CSS. In ACSS,
you'd just do this:

<span class="phonenumber">555-1212</span>

.phonenumber { speak-numeral: digits; }

--Kynn


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From: Raleigh Way
Date: Mon, Mar 03 2003 3:30PM
Subject: Re: Screen readers and telephone numbers
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I haven't tried this because I don't have Jaws installed, but would
the accronym, abbr or possibly some other hack of the title tag be
made to read the numbers as individual digits? For example:

Telephone <acronym title="1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4">123-456-1234</acronym>
Telephone <abbr title="1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4">123-456-1234</abbr>

Even though the screen reader would read the initial grouping of
numbers as continuous, it might speak the digits separately. A
little sloppy, but it might prove useful if it works.

Raleigh Way





>On Monday, March 3, 2003, at 09:25 AM, Paul Bohman wrote:
>
>>Ideally screen readers would be able to recognize phone numbers. Home Page
>>Reader *does* read phone numbers correctly (pronouncing each number
>>individually). Window Eyes does not. I don't believe JAWS does either, but I
>>don't currently have it installed.
>>
>
>Actually, recognition of phone numbers can be difficult when you factor in
>international numbers.
>
>I would say instead that "ideally, screen readers would support Aural style
>sheets."
>
>The speak-numeral CSS property is intended to address this very question:
>
>http://www.w3.org/TR/CSS2/aural.html#propdef-speak-numeral
>
> 'speak-numeral'
>
> Value: digits | continuous | inherit
> Initial: continuous
> Applies to: all elements
> Inherited: yes
> Percentages: N/A
> Media: aural
>
> This property controls how numerals are spoken. Values have
> the following meanings:
>
> digits
> Speak the numeral as individual digits. Thus, "237" is
> spoken "Two Three Seven".
>
> continuous
> Speak the numeral as a full number. Thus, "237" is
> spoken "Two hundred thirty seven". Word
> representations are language-dependent.
>
>Unfortunately, no screen readers support this, and even more unfortunately,
>the W3C has taken steps away from encouraging Aural CSS implementation
>and use with the issuance of CSS 2.1.
>
>As a stopgap measure, you could do something like this, in supported CSS
>and HTML:
>
><span class="auralspacer"> </span>5<span class="auralspacer"> </span>5-<span
>class="auralspacer"> </span>1<span class="auralspacer"> </span>2<span
>class="auralspacer"> </span>1<span class="auralspacer"> </span>2
>
>..auralspacer { display: none; }
>
>@media all {
> .auralspacer { display: inline; } }
>
>@media screen {
> .auralspacer { display: none; } }
>
>@media print {
> .auralspacer { display: none; } }
>
>In theory, this would make the markup look like this:
>
>5 5 5- 1 2 1 2
>
>Which hopefully would be read as "five five five one two one two".
>
>But when displayed on the screen or printed, it would look like this:
>
>555-1212
>
>Nassssty nassssty hack. But that's what happens when you don't have
>support for good and necessary standards, such as Aural CSS. In ACSS,
>you'd just do this:
>
><span class="phonenumber">555-1212</span>
>
>..phonenumber { speak-numeral: digits; }
>
>--Kynn
>
>
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>http://www.webaim.org/discussion/


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From: David R. Stong
Date: Tue, Mar 04 2003 8:28AM
Subject: Re: Screen readers and telephone numbers
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There have been some great, creative solutions to this from Dave,
Kyne, and Raliegh; I'd love to add mine.

If you use the letterspacing attribute in a class, with the value set
at -3pixels, and add aspace between each digit in the phone number,
the number displays correctly and reads properly.
Caveat- on my machine.










--
David R. Stong
Microcomputer Information Specialist (Graphic Designer),
Education Technology Services
Teaching and Learning with Technology
Information Technology Services
The Pennsylvania State University
225 Computer Building
University Park Campus
State College, PA 16802

Working for Universal Design: http://tlt.its.psu.edu/suggestions/accessibility


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From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Tue, Mar 04 2003 9:51AM
Subject: Re: Screen readers and telephone numbers
← Previous message | No next message

On Tue, 4 Mar 2003, David R. Stong wrote:

> If you use the letterspacing attribute in a class, with the value set
> at -3pixels, and add aspace between each digit in the phone number,
> the number displays correctly and reads properly.
> Caveat- on my machine.

I'd like to warn against such tricks. Successful at they might be under
some circumstances, they kick back in unexpected ways. And in some
expectable ways, too. If a phone number is written as 5 5 5 9 9 9,
it is natural to read as six completely separate words, and people who see
it may get thoroughly confused. Style sheets are _not_ something to be
relied upon; they are presentational suggestions only, in theory and in
practice. Search engines, for one, will hardly pay attention to style
sheets. (People could actually use search engines to find answers to
questions like "who's got phone number 888 2675", and this would fail even
if the number appears on Web pages but with spaces between digits, making
each digit a separate "word" in the search engine sense.)


--
Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/


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