There Is No Cat

As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly

Monday, March 27, 2006

Making WordPress Page Titles accessible

I don't use WordPress here, but I did as the basis for the site of the North American Shortwave Association when I recently overhauled the site. By default, WordPress uses the » character as a separator between the blog name and the page title. But Roger Johansson over at 456 Berea Street, in part three of his series on evaluating web site accessibility, mentions the use of this character and how it sounds to screen readers ("right pointing double angle quotation mark" to at least one, and "right double angle bracket" to JAWS, the most popular screen reader). Now, shortwave radio has a significant number of blind listeners, and the realization that they would have to sit through this lengthy bit of speech for one lousy character startled me, as I've tried my best to make the site as accessible as possible.

Roger points to a page on Peter Krantz's Standards schmandards that has sound files for how a number of possible separator characters would appear to JAWS. I decided that the · character (&middot;) would be the most appropriate. It's short to read, yet still provides a clear visual delimiter for sighted users. The fix was fairly easy; in my template, I found two instances of wp_title() in the header.php file used to define the header of all pages on the site. wp_title() can take a parameter to set the separator character, so in the <title> and <h1> tags, I replaced the bare wp_title() call with wp_title('&middot;'). Voila! The site is now ever-so-slightly less annoying for users accessing the content with screen readers. Thanks, Roger and Peter.

Now I just have to look through the rest of the site and see if the » character appears elsewhere, and if so, if it's important enough to change. I noticed quote a few of them sprinkled throughout the source code of the core files....

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Posted at 4:03 PM

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Note: I’m tired of clearing the spam from my comments, so comments are no longer accepted.

The other place that using someone else's quote mark for decoration doesn't work out well is in Yahoo search results, where they helpfully translate it to " because they know you aren't (... French? German? I keep forgetting who actually uses angle quotes).

Posted by Phil Ringnalda at 6:48 PM, March 27, 2006 [Link]

French, among others. In fact, there's a list of which languages use them (the name for them is "guillemets", which would make it seem like maybe French is the origin) on Wikipedia at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillemets .

Thanks for the tip about Yahoo. I didn't know that. Another reason to banish them from titles....

Posted by ralph at 9:40 PM, March 29, 2006 [Link]

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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio


There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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