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[Bug 14107] Non-conformance of the summary attribute for the table element makes WCAG 1.0 compliance impossible

From: <bugzilla@jessica.w3.org>
Date: Wed, 12 Oct 2011 09:50:48 +0000
To: public-html-a11y@w3.org
Message-Id: <E1RDvSa-0004je-Rv@jessica.w3.org>
http://www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/show_bug.cgi?id=14107

--- Comment #6 from theimp@iinet.net.au 2011-10-12 09:50:45 UTC ---
> It does not.

Just to be clear; I have no interest in how this is resolved, except that I am
bound to follow most of WCAG 1.0, however it ends up being interpreted (and
probably, that will mean interpreted by lawyers, not the W3C).

> That sentence is awfully bad spec writing.

Absolutely. It's not the first such example, and it won't be the last.
Ambiguity is a criticism that was frequently leveled at the WCAG 1.0 spec.

> There are two ways to argue the meaning of the sentence.

I'm not so sure; but it isn't really for me to argue one side or the other.

> One is that it gives one example of giving table summaries in HTML implying that the sentence is non-exclusive and there are
other possible ways.

If the (non-normative) companion documents are to be believed, there may be
other ways (the caption element or the title attribute, and maybe the
also-to-be-obsoleted abbr attributes on th elements), but only in some
circumstances; the nature of some tables requires the summary attribute.

> The other potential meaning is that HTML is given as an example of a vague larger set of possible formats but in HTML, using the summary attribute is unqualified.
> If you want to argue the latter, I think it's unreasonable to construe "HTML"
to mean any flavor of HTML in 1999 and forever thereafter.

I have to disagree there. While it's probably unreasonable to attempt to
*follow* WCAG 1.0 if that's what it means, I nevertheless believe that this is
exactly what it was intended to mean; given that there is effectively an entire
checkpoint stating that this is what it means (11.1).

> If we take the "for example" to imply that there are other non-HTML formats that WCAG tries to apply to, why would it be reasonable to have a special lock-down for future flavors of HTML?

Perhaps because it was considered that, for backwards-compatibility reasons if
no other, that particular attribute would always exist? My following of the
decision to remove the summary attribute seems to indicate that it's a
knife-edge choice either way, and that in the end simplicity for authors won
out (user agent vendors have to support it anyhow).

Maybe it's just that it was considered that another version of WCAG would be
published before another version of HTML (it was), but did not anticipate that
regulations would force following WCAG 1.0 and not itself be updated before the
next version of HTML (at the time, I believe it was not expected that there
would ever be another version of HTML).

> Also, the WAI made a special effort to make WCAG 2 technology-independent
precisely because WCAG 1 was too closely-coupled with the technologies of 1999

Indeed.

Just the same, those bound by law are stuck with WCAG 1.0 - maybe this will be
fixed by the time the HTML5 spec is formally finalized (it's got a few years to
go), but maybe not.

> so I think it doesn't make sense to try to treat WCAG 1 as normative over the
design of specs that are on track to supersede the technologies of 1999.

Unfortunately, not all of those (in fact, probably none of those) who are
required to follow WCAG 1.0 explicitly, get to choose to disregard certain
requirements as impractical.

> I think it's particularly unreasonable to read checkpoint 11.1 to mean that all
of WCAG 1 restricts all future specs without reading it to mean that you should
stop using WCAG 1 and use WCAG 2 instead.

Unreasonable or not, some people have no choice.

***

I agree with you almost completely. WCAG 1.0 is problematic. Even so, the W3C
authored and recommended it, and has not retired it. It's a current
recommendation, even if there is also a more up-to-date recommendation.

Of course, legislative problems for authors are not strictly the concern of the
HTML5 working group. Except that, I understand that widespread and rapid
adoption of HTML5 is one of the main priorities of the HTML5 working group.

I wonder, if the issue might be neatly resolved for everyone by making the
summary attribute conforming (obsolete or not). Authors can use it, or not, as
needed, and as far as they cannot use another solution. Vendors have to support
it anyhow. Hence, this bug.

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Received on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 09:50:55 GMT

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