microformats’ ABBR design pattern raises accessibility concerns

Fellow WaSP ATF members James Craig and Bruce Lawson deliver a timely article on microformats and the problems related to the (ab)use of the ABBR element as a design pattern for machine-readable data.

Most of the time, Microformats and the principles of accessibility coexist harmoniously.


The creators of Microformats strayed from their accessible, semantic intentions when they extended the abbr-design-pattern to the datetime-design-pattern. This idea, though paved with good intentions, was a workaround for a browser bug and, like many others, has unintended, harmful side effects.

Personally, I’ve also raised concerns a while ago about the use of ABBR for geocoding content, such as:

<abbr class=”geo” title=”30.300474;-97.747247″>Austin, Texas</abbr>

To be clear, this isn’t a slamdown on the concept of microformats as a whole, but just on the way ABBR may not be the most suitable candidate for certain patterns.

The discussion is already in full swing, with some good arguments on either side of the fence…so head on over to read the full article hAccessibility and join the debate.

Filed under: Accessibility
Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Friday, April 27, 2007


  1. So says Ian

    Crikey, things really did kick off, didn’t they? I always miss this stuff when it happens at the weekend.

    Added April 30, 2007 at 9:03 am

  2. [...] Microformats supporters. For the accessibility community as a whole, it must be a good thing. On numerous occasions, accessibility experts have pressed for changes to the ABBR design pattern - the [...]

    Added January 16, 2009 at 11:12 am

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