Saturday 13 July 2002

Accessibility tip 20: Use real horizontal rules

Today’s accessibility tip deals with using horizontal rules properly as dividers between weblog posts. I don’t think I’ve used a horizontal rule since mid-1995, in the days when Web pages still had gray backgrounds. I suspect I may feel the same antipathy towards the <hr /> tag that Professor Salo has for the <br />. For me, sufficient structural and visual differentiation is provided by the “Posted 12:10 AM | Comments (2)” paragraph at the end of one post and the (red) Heading 3 post title at the beginning of the next. So, another easy day (though I await with some trepidation what Mark has in store for me next week).

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This comment arose out of my editing Joe Clark's upcomding book, "Building Accessible Websites", where he argues that HR does provide semantic value, dividing the content into "before" and "after". Many sites would look and feel better in text-only browsers if they used real HR tags (my own included -- I'm working on a redesign).

BTW, today was /supposed/ to be about LONGDESC, but I decided that this was more in the spirit of the series: here's a little thing, it makes some amount of difference to a certain number of people, it's not too much work, so do it this way instead of that. LONGDESC, while important, is outside the scope of this series; it's just too much work.

Posted by Mark Pilgrim on 13 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

If you're interested, I'm working on filling out my photo album with long descriptions for every photograph.

(Still working on earlier albums.)

The basic idea is that each photograph needs a long text description, to make it accessible to someone who can't see it (or can't see it well). This can be on the same page, in which case all you need is an ALT attribute on your IMG. Or it can be on a separate page, in which case you need a LONGDESC attribute on your IMG that points to the separate page, *plus* a regular visible link that also points to the separate page (for compatibility with browsers that don't support LONGDESC -- and most don't).

Creating separate long descriptions really adds a lot to the photo album (even for people who can see just fine), but it's a *lot* of work, and I just can't recommend it as a "fire and forget" kind of tip.

You can see another use of LONGDESC on my stats page:

One final note: the LONGDESC attribute is supposed to be a URL that points to a page, presumably an HTML page. It's not arbitrary text, it's a pointer. Dorothea gets this wrong, tsk tsk.

Posted by Mark Pilgrim on 13 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Perhaps @media rules governing tags would help overcome your resistance, Jonathon? Such a rule would allow you to make them display: none for your visual site, but let them still sound in screen readers.

Perhaps I shall have to do that myself, come to think of it.

Posted by Dorothea Salo on 13 July 2002 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour