[Irl-dean] Emails and Screen Readers?

Barry McMullin mcmullin at eeng.dcu.ie
Thu Jul 27 13:44:23 IST 2006

On Thu, 27 Jul 2006 drice at nda.ie wrote:

> on a related subject there is the Text Email Standard form Headstar at
> http://www.headstar.com/ten/.  This standard is designed to "improve the
> readability of plain text email newsletters by all readers, including
> people with visual impairments using special access technologies "
> The 'standard' defines structure in a text-only document through the use
> of the '+' symbol eg, ++Section heading, +Sub-section heading.  It also
> sets out a list of do and don'ts relating to the use of such things as a
> content section and mathematical symbols.
> The only email newsletter that I am aware of that uses the TEN is the
> Headstar e-Government Bulletin.

Can I just say that I am have come across this, but I think it is
quite a misguided idea? Dónal is quite right to put "standard" in
scare-quotes - it is not a standard in any formal sense, but just
an informal suggestion on the part of this one organisation. The
objectives are well meaning - but virtual everything suggested by
this format duplicate mechanisms that exist in HTML (which, for
all its shortcomings, is the subject of meaningful "standards",
or W3C "recommendations" in this case). So: if you have a need to
express those stuctures, the appropriate way to do so is to not
to use "plain text" at all, but HTML instead. (Actually, although
TEN is described as a "plain text" format, as some sort of
contrast to HTML, this is just misleading: TEN is really just
yet-another markup language, which happens to be relatively
concise and readable when encoded into ASCII text ...)

So I would say that while HTML might be overkill for simple,
informal, email messages, it is certainly appropriate for
anything that needs anything like the complexity of TEN.

Of course, I would say that the real problem in the background of
the discussion is the continuing scarcity of good authoring tools
- including the "message composer" normally embedded within email
programmes - for producing accessible HTML - and of people who
understand how to use them...

Best - Barry.

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