Latest Accessibility News on Accessify


Take care with your captioning …

About time there was something fun on these pages, eh?

If you are involved with closed captioning for deaf users, you might take note of this page: Captioning
glitch on national TV news program transforms an "enlarged prostate" into something considerably more exciting

"We initially refused to believe an alert ABC News fan who told us that the closed captions for the 6:30 p.m. Tuesday feed of Peter Jennings’s "World News Tonight" informed viewers that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was ‘in the hospital for an enlarged prostitute.’

But yesterday a network spokeswoman confirmed the wording — provided by ABC’s Pennsylvania-based closed-captioning contractor. Apparently the typist hit the wrong key, or keys. The glitch was fixed for the 7 p.m. feed.

‘We strive for perfection,’ ABC’s Cathie Levine told us, ‘but when you’re typing that fast, there are occasional mistakes. We regret the error.’

Greenspan was home recovering yesterday from prostate surgery, said his wife, NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell. As for that ‘enlarged prostitute,’ Mitchell told us: ‘He should be so lucky.’"

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Wednesday, April 30, 2003


Submit to acrobot at the click of a button

Acrobot logoNew in the Accessibility Checking Favelets page: a favelet that lets you quickly highlight text on a page and submit it to Acrobot. Highlight some text on your web page (or perhaps some text that you are
entering into a <textarea>, for example a Blogger or
MovableType post), then run this favelet - the highlighted text will be
passed through the Acrobot,
converting all your acronyms and abbreviations. Please note: this has
been tested in IE5
and IE6 on Windows
but does not always appear to work with <textarea>s
in Mozilla (although any other text highlighted on the page does work

Thanks to Matt for providing!

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Tuesday, April 29, 2003


DRC Briefing report

This post was so long it was almost an article in itself, so guess what I did? My report on the DRC briefing can now be found here.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Tuesday, April 29, 2003


Request for screen shots

Since the last redesign of this site, we’ve not been able to see how well it renders in some browsers and operating systems. Some we’ve seen but don’t have screen shots for, others we can only guess at. If you are using anything other than a Windows-based (common) browser, please take a look at the supported browsers information. If you can supply a screen shot for any that are missing, that would be mighty fine - just mail it to accessify At yahoo dot co dot uk (sorry have to spell it out to avoid those nasty spam merchants latching on).

You’re all smashing super lovely people and I would thank you all personally if I could afford the air-fares.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Monday, April 28, 2003


Accessible Museum Website Award launched

The Museums Computer Group (MCG) is seeking nominations for the most accessible museum website of the year award. This is the first Jodi Mattes Access award and the winner will be announced at the RNIB (Royal National Institute of the Blind)’s Talking Images conference on 20th May 2003.

Criteria for the award will be usability and content accessibility. Technical compliance will be measured to level A of the Web Accessibility Initiative Guidelines. If entries are sufficient in number, there will be two prizes for ‘Best Large-scale Site’ and ‘Best Shoestring Project’ . Websites from all countries are eligible, but must contain some navigation and content in English.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Monday, April 28, 2003


Update to Acrobot

There’s been a bit of an update to Acrobot - the tool now has categories of acronyms that you can choose from. If you are a registered member, you can log in and add your own acronyms and abbreviations (or edit existing entries).

The tool still needs some extra work. Currently there is no duplication of acronyms/abbreviations, but if you do add a new one that conflicts with an existing entry, both will be accepted on the database, but when running a conversion, only the first entry will be used. This is on the ‘to-do’ list, folks!

I was also asked if I could provide the list in a machine-readable format. This is sort of answered here - a comma separated list. You’ll still need to copy and paste for the moment (unless someone can tell me how I can use an ASP variable to generate a separate .csv file on the server using ASP classic, not Dot Net).

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Friday, April 25, 2003


Formal Accessibility Investigation Kicks off with Open Meeting

I know it’s short notice, but if you are in London (or thereabouts) on Monday
28th April, you should try to get along to the City University. The Disability Rights Commission is hosting a meeting to discuss the implications of their forthcoming investigation into accessibility of public service web sites.

More information about the briefing can be found here, and if you want to register (and assuming it’s not too late), here are the registration details required.

I’ll be there representing Nationwide, so if you want to say hello, just look for someone who looks like this (only with less hair).

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Friday, April 25, 2003

Amaya 8.0 Released

Amaya is a Web editor, i.e. a tool used to create and update documents directly on the Web. Browsing features are seemlessly integrated with the editing and remote access features in a uniform environment. This follows the original vision of the Web as a space for collaboration and not just a one-way publishing medium.

Work on Amaya started at W3C in 1996 to showcase Web technologies in a fully-featured Web client. The main motivation for developing Amaya was to provide a framework that can integrate as many W3C technologies as possible. It is used to demonstrate these technologies in action while taking advantage of their combination in a single, consistent environment.

Amaya started as an HTML + CSS style sheets editor. Since that time it was extended to support XML and an increasing number of XML applications such as the XHTML family, MathML, and SVG. It allows all those vocabularies to be edited simultaneously in compound documents.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Accessify on Friday, April 25, 2003


More about acronyms and abbreviations

The more I look at this, the more layers it reveals. No wonder people often mark up their web pages using the incorrect tags for abbreviations (if they try at all). It’s very confusing - I admit that until very recently I was incorrectly marking up almost everything as an <acronym> when I should have used <abbr>. Hopefully by my going through this pain and making this tool make the decisions for you, everyone will be happy!

“An acronym (pronounced AK-ruh-nihm, from Greek acro- in the sense of extreme or tip and onyma or name) is an abbreviation of several words in such a way that the abbreviation itself forms a word. According to Webster’s, the word doesn’t have to already exist; it can be a new word. Webster’s cites "snafu" and "radar", two terms of World War Two vintage, as examples. Implicit is the idea that the new word has to be pronounceable and ideally easy to remember.”


Looking at the W3C spec, it gives examples of <abbr> usage, but not of <acronym>:

<abbr title=”World Wide Web”>WWW</abbr>

<abbr lang=”fr”
title=”Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer”>SNCF</abbr>

<abbr lang=”es” title=”Doña”>Doña</abbr>

<abbr title=”Abbreviation”>abbr.</abbr>

Source: HTML4.01 Recommendation

So, WWW is an abbreviation then? Not an acronym? Apparantly it’s something called an initialism - that is, it’s created from the initial letters but is not a pronouncable word:

“An initialism is an abbreviation formed by using the first letters, or initials, of a series of words, for example BBC or IBM. This is called an initialism when the letters are sounded out, as in the previous example, but it is called an acronym when the abbreviation forms a pronouncable word, such as NATO or AIDS. However, this distinction is often lost in common speech; most people call both types of abbreviations acronyms.”


… expect we have no tag in HTML for this. There is no <initialism> tag. So, the rule really does seem to be:

  • If it’s not pronouncable, it goes into the <abbr> tag (which is precisely what the majority of phrases in Acrobot come under)
  • If it is pronouncable, then it is an <acronym>

However, there are still some grey areas:

  • What is SQL? Is it an acronym, abbreviation or initialism? Actually it’s an initialism, but how do you pronounce it? ‘Sequel’ or ‘S-Q-L’?
  • What is USA? Is it an acronym? No, letters are pronounced separately, so therefore it must be an abbreviation, as there is no letter for ‘of’, and therefore does not qualify as an initialism. So it must be an abbreviation.
  • Can you have a single letter acronym? ‘I’ is a word, it’s pronouncable in its own right. So, if you use ‘i’ as a shortened form for italics, is this an acronym? It seems to satisfy the rules as an acronym but somehow seems wrong (thanks to Mac for sowing this particular seed!)

It appears, therefore, that an acronym is a type of abbreviation - they are not mutually exclusive sets - and while it could be acceptable to mark up NATO as an abbreviation, it is better to mark it up for what it truly is - an acronym.

For anyone still reading this far, well done. It may seem a little off-track for Accessify, but bear in mind that these tags are very useful for increasing the understandability of a document, and you do need to know how to use them properly. The difference between these two tags may seem trivial to some people, but if you are using a screen reader or speech browser that recognises these tags, there is a real need to define how the phrase should be pronounced. If you do mark up a phrase such as BBC as an acronym, you might accidentally cause it to read out some garbled attempted pronunciation, but if you mark it up as an abbreviation, this is less likely to happen.

Remember, you can influence the way that devices read these phrases out in aural style sheet:

acronym {speak : normal;}

abbr.initialism {speak : spell-out;}

abbr.truncation {speak : normal;}

Source: Ben Meadowcroft

However, support for aural style sheets is almost non-existent presently. But that does not mean you shouldn’t use this - think of ‘forward compatibility’. Implement this now and when something comes along that does support it, you can sit back and smile smugly.

Finally, I had to include this quote (sent by e-mail from Gez). It’s the English teacher bit I love …

“An acronym must be pronounceable; otherwise it’s an abbreviation. My English teacher was quite definite on this, and also assured us that she was never wrong about anything.”

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Thursday, April 24, 2003


difference between acronyms and abbreviations

So, I thought I knew the difference between an acronym and an abbreviation when I built the Acrobot tool. As I mention on this page - Why you should use acronyms and abbreviations - there is a difference, which I defined like so:

An abbreviation is just that - a string of words that have been reduced to their initial leading letters. When you read it out, you naturally pronounce each letter individually.

NSPCC pronounced "Enn Ess Pee See See"

RNIB pronounced "Arr Enn Eye Bee"

An acronym is a special kind of abbreviation. Either by luck or design, the initial letters make up an abbreviation that can be read aloud as a word in its own right:

NASA pronounced "Nassa"

GUI pronounced "Gooey"

This was based on my understanding of the <acronym> and <abbr> tags. From

Unlike other kinds of abbreviations, acronyms are pronounceable words, though in some cases the pronunciation is strictly a presentation issue. For example, "SQL" and "URL" are pronounced as words by some people and pronounced letter-by-letter by others. In such cases, authors should use the ABBR element, possibly with a style sheet rule specifying the pronunciation for aural rendering.

But then I received a note that suggested that my differentiation was not correct - that the issue was not about pronunciation of the word (as I had suggested) but more about whether the abbreviation was based on initial letters or some other kind of squishing down of the text. So, NATO is an acronym, as is WCAG (and not an abbreviation, according to my definition), but TX (meaning Texas) is an abbreviation. has the following definitions:

Acronym: A word formed from the initial letters of a name, such as WAC for Women’s Army Corps, or by combining initial letters or parts of a series of words, such as radar for radio detecting and ranging.

Abbreviation: A shortened form of a word or phrase used chiefly in writing to represent the complete form, such as Mass. for Massachusetts or USMC for United States Marine Corps.

So, the question is: "Is the HTML specification incorrect in interpreting the meaning of these words? And if this is true, what should we be using?!"

I’d appreciate feedback on this - if you have something to offer that might clarify this, please get in touch.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Wednesday, April 23, 2003
← Older Posts