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Mark Highlighting

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Highlighting & Notes
Use case
HTML 5 provides a clearly defined way to show highlights to sighted users. Highlights that use the tag are specifically for the purpose of calling attention to sections of the text after the initial authoring for the purposes of discussion, studying or testing. It closely mirrors highlighting with a highlighter pen in a printed book. In addition, <mark> elements might be associated with additional notes that appear onClick or onMouseOver. These could be user notes, instructor notes or social notes (from others using the same materials or within a social network).
This functionality is far more than decorative. As it is integrated into eBooks, it will provide sighted users of large screens with the following:
  • A quick way to find some text the user highlighted before (for example, to use in a writing assignment)
  • A way to create notes to review before an exam: As students read through the first time, they can mark key items to re-read before an exam. A student might do this for themselves. A tutor might do this for a student. An instructor or a teaching assistant might do this for many students. Students might do this for each other.
  • A quick way to find some text that a fellow student is talking about
  • A basis for online discussion
  • A quick way to find text referred to in test questions
  • Different colors might indicate different uses (for example, different users or text to use in a paper versus text to study before an exam)
  • For students who are blind or color blind, alternate mechanisms should be provided for categorizing highlight
It is essential that as these uses are supported by functionality and become central to educational reading, that blind students, instructors, etc, can fully participate. All users must be able to both access highlights and create highlights. Note that a key aspect of highlighting, even in its roots in a printed text, is to be able to find the text without reading all of the text. You flip through a book quickly, pausing only where the highlights appear. As such, for blind users, we need to provide a way to navigate to each highlight and to choose which color highlight to navigate.
Considering serious academic use, including testing, there needs to also be some way for a blind screen reader user to know exactly which text is being discussed.
It is also important that users of smaller screens can access highlights. Consider that a small screen might include only a few sentences at a time. In this case, similar to screen reader reading, it is not practical to skim the text to find the highlight, and navigation options should be provided.
Finally, in a long text with sparse highlighting, sighted users of large screens will also benefit from some way to navigate between highlights. As such, while this type of navigation based on semantic tags is usually available only through assistive technologies, it might be best to have this available to all through the user agent (browser or eBook reader).
To Come. Need to review annotations use cases.
Relevant W3C group(s)/specification(s)
External relevant group(s)/specification(s)
Need to review:
  • ePub Readers - how do they handle highlighting
  • Custom Highlighting features currently in screen readers. For example, JAWS offers Custom Highlight Assign CTRL+INSERT+H.
  • How adding comments in text editors works with screen readers currently. What do users think of these?
  • It's worth looking at products in the AT space for annotation, such as Don Johnston's Read:OutLoud
Submitted by
Suzanne Taylor