[uf-discuss] Expanding the abbr pattern

Jeremy Keith jeremy at adactio.com
Fri Apr 27 09:39:30 PDT 2007

Hi everyone,

Have you seen this post over on the WaSP blog?

It's a well-reasoned and calm look at the problems caused by the abbr  
pattern in today's screenreaders (though some of the comments are a  
little less calm). Rather than just bitching about this issue, James  
and Craig have proposed some potential solutions.

The simplest solution is to simply expand the pattern to allow the  
same usage of class and title on elements other than abbr (span is  
specifically mentioned but this would potentially apply to any element).

The argument against:

The reason why the abbr pattern currently uses the abbr element is  
because of the semantic power of this element. The HTML spec  
explicitly states the text between the opening and closing tags of  
the abbr element are an abbreviation of the title attribute of that  
element. That is not true of any other element. Using the title  
attribute of an element other than abbr to hold abbreviated content  
could be justifiably considered an abuse of the title attribute:
"This attribute offers advisory information about the element for  
which it is set."

The argument for:

Microformats are a practical, rather than a theoretical, technology.  
They need to work in today's browsers. The abbr pattern isn't working  
in today's screenreaders. I believe this to be a failure on the part  
of the screenreader manufacturers but my beliefs are irrelevant  
(remember: practical trumps theoretical). While restricting this  
pattern to the abbr element is semantically correct, it is  
impractical for today's technology.

I'd be interested in hearing other arguments for or against this idea.

Meanwhile, there's another step we can take now to help mitigate the  
confusion that the abbr pattern can cause in screen readers but I'll  
start another thread for that.



Jeremy Keith

a d a c t i o


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