[Irl-dean] Emails and Screen Readers?

Tim Culhane tim.culhane at criticalpath.net
Thu Jul 27 10:27:04 IST 2006

Hi Mark,

Tim do screen readers ever do this kind of thing, of does  
everyone just put up with hearing "greater than greater than" all the  
time and figure it out for themselves?

Potentially you can configure your screen reader to  try and be clever  by
substituting '>'   with another  word or sound.  However, As you mention
elsewhere, this is not fool proof as  there are times when '>' symbols can
appear legitimately in mails.

To be honest, I think people just generally put up with it.

One technique I use when dealing with many levels of nested '>' symbols is
to cut and paste the message into another editor and do a search and replace
on '>' and replace it with nothing.

-----Original Message-----
From: irl-dean-admin at list.eeng.dcu.ie
[mailto:irl-dean-admin at list.eeng.dcu.ie] On Behalf Of Mark Magennis
Sent: 27 July 2006 10:16
To: irl-dean at list.eeng.dcu.ie
Subject: Re: [Irl-dean] Emails and Screen Readers?

> 1. Do screen readers read disclaimers every time they encounter them 
> or do the major email providers have some sort of script which stops 
> the reader at the end of the relevant content?

If the disclaimer is just more text added on to the end of a text  
message then no software - screen reader or email client - will be  
able to tell where the message body ends and the disclaimer starts,  
except by the application of some advanced artificial intelligence.

For disclaimers or signatures to be reliably detected, they would  
have to be marked up as such in a machine readable way. I'm not  
completely sure about any of this, but my guess is that this does not  
happen with plain text emails, almost certainly does not happen  
either with Rich Text emails and could happen with HTML emails, but  
probably doesn't. Even if there is a way of tagging the disclaimer in  
an HTML email, I would bet that few email clients recognise it.

> How do they feel about the following common punctuation usages.
>>> to show quotes?

Your email client probably displays quotes using chevrons ('greater  
than' symbols) before each line of the quoted text. My email client  
(Mac Mail) displays it as a solid border to the left of the paragraph  
being quoted, with a single border for a direct quote, a double  
border for a quote of a quote, a triple border for a quote of a quote  
of a quote, etc. Additionally, it uses different colours for each  
quote level, so a direct quote has the text and border in blue, quote  
of a quote is green and quote of a quote of a quote is black. You can  
set the colours to whatever you want.

The email I receive is just text and contains chevrons at the start  
of some lines. So Mac Mail is interpreting these chevrons as  
indicating a quote. It is feasible that a screen reader could do the  
same, so when it sees a chevron at the start of a line it could say  
"quote" then when it comes to a line with no chevron it could say  
"end of quote". Or it could use a different voice for what it thinks  
are quoted lines. I imagine it would get a bit more complicated and  
more difficult for the user to follow with more than one level of  
quoting. Tim do screen readers ever do this kind of thing, of does  
everyone just put up with hearing "greater than greater than" all the  
time and figure it out for themselves?

The problem with this interpretation approach is that really it's  
just guessing. The client assumes that chevrons at the start of lines  
always mean quotes and sometimes it gets it wrong. For instance,  
where you have written "> > > to show quotes?", my mail client  
assumes, wrongly, that this is a third level quote. So markup would  
be better.

> - between words?
> / between words?
> . at the end of a sentence ?

These are normal in written language. not specific to emails, so I'm  
sure screen readers and screen reader users have figured out how to  
handle them sensibly.

> even bad spelling?

It's ironic. Some of the worst spellers are screen reader users  
themselves! They often spell phonetically. But the human brain is  
good at interpreting misspelt words correctly, whereas the screen  
reader is not good at it. I imagine it can be a pain sometimes, but  
again it's not just to do with email. I'm also one of the worst  
spellers, but I pass everything I write through a spell checker, so  
you wouldn't know. Incidentally, my spell checker tells me your  
signature contains a misspelling - "recieved" instead of "received"


> Dont even ask how I thought of this but any information on this is 
> very much appreciated.
> With regards
> Brendan Spillane
> P.S. for any users of screen readers I apologise if you have had to 
> read the info below every time I have posted on this list.
> --
> http://www.ilikecake.net
> +353 1 658 4081
> The information in this email (including attachments) is intended 
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> privileged material. If you have recieved this in error please notify 
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> retransmission of the contents of this mail is forbidden without the 
> written consent of the sender. ilikecake limited does not accept 
> liability for any loss or damage which may result from this email or 
> any attachment, or for errors or omissions arising after it was sent.
> _______________________________________________
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> Irl-dean at list.eeng.dcu.ie 
> http://list.eeng.dcu.ie/mailman/listinfo/irl-dean

Dr. Mark Magennis
Director of the Centre for Inclusive Technology (CFIT)
National Council for the Blind of Ireland
Whitworth Road, Dublin 9, Republic of Ireland

mark.magennis at ncbi.ie   tel: +353 (0)71 914 7464


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