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Re: Stephen Ferg's Table Research

From: Robert Burns <rob@robburns.com>
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2007 07:15:56 -0500
Message-Id: <DDC5CBB6-C433-423F-9E57-864288325345@robburns.com>
Cc: "Ian Hickson" <ian@hixie.ch>, "Ben 'Cerbera' Millard" <cerbera@projectcerbera.com>, HTMLWG <public-html@w3.org>, "Stephen Ferg" <ferg_s@bls.gov>
To: Ben Boyle <benjamins.boyle@gmail.com>

On Aug 15, 2007, at 6:46 AM, Ben Boyle wrote:

> On 8/14/07, Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch> wrote:
>> ... 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! ...
> I agree -- I don't really understand them either. But I don't think
> this is relevant. These tables are designed to communicate with
> experts primarily (e.g. statisticians, accountants, etc.) and when
> they're from a government source accessibility is often a legal
> requirement.
> I've needed to publish tables like this and really am looking for
> support in HTML to accomplish this (and I've been pretty confident
> HTML4.01 could handle it, waiting to see where HTML5 goes on the
> topic). Here's an example:
> http://www.disability.qld.gov.au/budget/06-07/mps/financial.html (If
> you dig a little further you can see in 2007-08 the publishers opted
> to use pdf/rtf rather than HTML. You can draw your own conclusions
> from that.)

These tables are very interesting I think. First of all they look  
very straight-forward to me (maybe that's just because I'm an  
economist, but they seem simpler than many of the other tables we've  
looked at). However, they're interesting to me for several reasons.  
They're created to be accessible using both @scope and @headers and  
not in a redundant way. They use headers in a fairly simple way (not  
a cumbersome way as some may need to do for backwards compatibility).

If the left header cells were changed to data cells, and the @headers  
attribute was removed, the proper associations would still take place  
under the HTML 4.01 basic table algorithm. With the current HTML5  
data/header association algorithm, the data/header associations would  
be incomplete (though mostly complete) but no @scope would be  
necessary. Adding @scope and changing the left header cells to data  
cells would create the proper associations in the current HTML draft  

With a sufficiently advanced HTML5 algorithm (not the one we have in  
the current draft), the proper associations would take place without  
either the @scope or the @headers attributes. Simply by treating the  
THEAD cells as global header cells and moving the table segments into  
separate TBODY elements (such as income and expense in the first  
table and moving the operating surplus to a TFOOT).

What's interesting to me then that even with an advanced basic  
algorithm (one not requiring @headers nor @cope) it still requires  
some author know-how and skill to structure the table correctly (not  
that its incorrect now, just that it would be correct for the new  
basic algorithm). In many cases, authors may find it easier and surer  
to simply set the @headers and @scope to get the accessibility  
results they want. Trying to give up on those attributes in this case  
requires the author know even more than simply setting the @headers  
accordingly. This example I think shows that sometimes @headers can  
be the simplest way to accomplish the authors goals.

Take care,
Received on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 12:16:44 UTC

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