According to the communication theorist Marshall McLuhan, a document is the “medium” in which a “message” (information) is communicated (McLuhan & Fiore, 2005). The content of the printed or electronic documents includes mainly the text and the images (i.e. figures, drawings, graphs, pictures, charts, diagrams, maps, photos, etc.). Furthermore it may include mathematical or in general scientific symbols and formulas. The term text-document refers to the textual content only of a document.
Besides its content, a printed or electronic document contains a number of presentation elements or attributes that apply on its text content: a) design glyphs or typographic elements (i.e. visual representation of letters and characters in a specific font and style) and b) arrangement of the content on the page and the document as a whole. For example, the title of a chapter can be recognized by placing it at the top of the page and in larger font size than the body of the text. Also, text color, but also the bold font style, can be used to indicate emphasis in a specific part of a text-document.
The elements of a text-document can be classified in three layers (Kouroupetroglou & Tsonos, 2008):
Logical Layer: It associates content with structural elements such as headings, titles/ subtitles, chapters, paragraphs, tables, lists, footnotes, and appendices.
Layout Layer: It associates content with architectural elements relating to the arrangement on pages and areas within pages, such as margins, columns, alignment and orientation (portrait or landscape).
Typography Layer: It includes font (type, size, color, background color, etc.) and font style such as bold, italics, underline. In contrast to the rich text, the term plain text indicates text of in any unique font type and size, but without font style.
The above three layers are complementary and not independent. Typography can be applied to both the logical and the layout layers of a document. Moreover, typography can be applied to the main body of the text directly. For example, a word in bold can be used either for the introduction of a new term or to indicate a person’s name. Also, a heading can be arranged in the center of a line (layout layer).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Text-to-Speech: Software applications that transform any text-based message (or information) with unlimited or unrestricted vocabulary into spoken form using speech synthesis and without the necessity of prerecording.
Universal Design or Design-For-All: A general framework catering for conscious and systematic efforts to proactively apply principles, methods, and tools to develop documents that are accessible and usable by more people, including the youngest, the elderly and people with different types of disabilities, in more situations or context of use, thus avoiding the need for a posteriori adaptations, or specialized design.
Document Accessibility: The enabling of an electronic document to be used effectively, efficiently and satisfactory by more people in more situations or context of use.
Text Signal: A writing device that emphasizes aspects of a text’s content or text structure carrying semantic information over and above the content. The logical and the typographic layers of a document are text signals.
Presentation Elements: Attributes of a printed or electronic text-document that arrange the content on the page and apply design glyphs or typographic elements (i.e. visual representation of letters and characters in a specific font and style).
Assistive Technology: Products, devices, equipment or software applications that are used to maintain, increase or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
Document-to-Audio: Next generation TtS systems that support the efficient acoustic rendition of the presentation elements of a document (i.e. the typography and logical layers of a document).
Readability: The gauge that measures how easily words, phrases and blocks of a text-document can be read.
Legibility: The measure of easiness to distinguish one letter from another in a particular typeface in a text- document.
Print-Disabled: A person with vision impairment (e.g. blindness, low vision or dyschromatopsia), a learning disability (including dyslexia) or a motor disability (such as loss of dexterity) that prevents the physical handling of a document, but also a person with an occasional or situational “disability” (a typical example is the car driver whose eyes and hands are busy).