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Very nice technique, hadn’t seen the data- method before! But the screenreader problem is fairly serious.
Also the demo page isn’t working on my Android Gingerbread browser, although webfonts are supported ( http://www.google.com/webfonts works at least) so I just see the original characters ($, k, t etc.)
Both make me wonder: couldn’t they have put their new characters in some far-out character area? Aren’t there areas of unicode reserved for weird symbols?
I know that you’d then have to escape the unicode to use it in “content”, but presumably it would fail back to a blank rather than a recognised but confusing character?