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Re: Stephen Ferg's Table Research

From: Jason White <jason@jasonjgw.net>
Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2007 17:00:38 +1000
To: HTMLWG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20070814070038.GA6317@jdc.local>

On Tue, Aug 14, 2007 at 05:23:56AM +0000, Ian Hickson wrote:
 
> (There are many issues here beyond just whether any particular table can 
> be expressed in markup. Some of the tables I've seen discussed in these 
> threads are so complex that I don't understand what they are supposed to 
> represent, and I'm not blind -- we probably don't want to encourage 
> authors to write that kind of table in the first place! We have to balance 
> the usability of the language and the ease of implementation with its 
> expressiveness. Our goal isn't to make anything expressible in HTML, our 
> goal is to hit the 80% mark that helps most authors while keeping the 
> language simple and approachable, and while making it really easy to Do 
> The Right Thing to make pages that are accessible to everyone. We want to 
> design features that are inherently accessible, not features that require 
> an explicit step to "add accessibility", since most authors won't do that, 
> leaving that kind of feature pretty much dead in the water.)

Those might be your goals for HTML, but it is quite evident from discussions
on this mailing list that there are others in the working group who disagree
with the above.

In particular, no amount of discouraging will preclude authors from writing
complex tables should they decide to do so. If they do write such tables, the
language should provide the necessary expressiveness to allow the header and
data cell associations to be specified explicitly, enabling those tables
(which by assumption will exist) to be made accessible.

The assumption that most authors won't add markup to assist non-visual user
agents and assistive technologies is also not a good starting point from which
to discuss accessibility. In some environments, authors are required to
include whatever markup is necessary for this purpose, and there are some
semantics which, in general, aren't useful to visual user agents, but which
can be crucially important in non-visual modalities. Table header and data
cell associations are one such example; some have argued in this forum that
textual alternatives to media elements are another (see the @alt as ToolTip
discussion).

The entire WAI-ARIA effort is premised upon the inclusion of metadata which,
though seldom required for visual presentation, are essential for non-visual
user agents and assistive technologies, particularly, but not only, where
client-side scripts are involved. These semantics have to be supplied, whether
or not anybody discovers a means of making them useful to visual user-agents
as such.

I would agree that designs which both provide the necessary semantics and turn
out to be useful across all user agent scenarios (both visual and non-visual)
are desirable; but I dissent from any suggestion that this principle should be
broadened to discourage the provision of language features that are only
beneficial to non-visual UAs or to serve other accessibility-related needs.

In HTML, what you see is not all that you get, since the language has use
cases and is required to support application scenarios that go beyond the
visual user agent, as has been argued in other threads of this discussion.
Received on Tuesday, 14 August 2007 07:03:20 GMT

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