W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > June 2007

retention of summary attribute for TABLE element

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <oedipus@hicom.net>
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2007 17:04:25 -0400
To: public-html@w3.org, wai-xtech@w3.org
Message-Id: <20070610210209.M51260@hicom.net>

listed in the WHAT WG's Differences from HTML4 wiki page [note 1],
under the heading Dropped Attributes, the attribute summary is 
listed as dropped from the list of attributes defined for the TABLE 
element. [note 2]

what justified this decision?  a summary makes it possible for someone 
processing the TABLE non-visually or in small highly magnified chunks 
to get an over-view of the TABLE, for what is a TABLE, other than a 
visual means of displaying related data sets, and what the sighted 
user sees at a glance -- the spatial relationships between cells, 
rows, and column -- but, in the absence of a summary, the aural user 
must investigate the table carefully and fully, just in order to 
ascertain whether or not it is the correct table, how many rows by how 
many columns to expect, etc.

---------------------
Retention Argument 1:
---------------------

The summary attribute is essential to a non-visual end user who is 
interpreting the visual canvas with an aural renderer.  It is to the 
non-visual or low vision user what the gestalt view is to a sighted 
user who is capable of making the correct spatial associations and an 
instant -- familiarity with the layout and flow of the TABLE, which is 
constantly reinforced by visually interacting with the TABLE, which is 
impossible for speech-output or refreshable braille display to convey to 
its user without entering and inspecting every TABLE, whether or not that 
TABLE contains the information for which they are seeking.  without a 
summary, every TABLE will entail an extensive amount of work on the end 
user's part because they are:

1) unaware of the table's layout, orientation, flow, content, 
   relevance and validity;

2) unaware of the relationships conveyed by the TABLE, for table-ized 
   data (as well as layout tables) have meaning only insofar as one 
   can visually and cognatively correctly correlate column and/or row 
   headers, even if they are incorrectly marked up (for example, 
   indicated by a font-weight change or a fore-ground or background 
   color change only)


---------------------
Retention Argument 2:
---------------------

Summary is to the visual construct TABLE as "alt" is to IMG, and title 
and description are to SVG -- necessary and required markup, so as to 
indicate to the non-visual user what is subconsciously absorbed by the 
majority of users, for whom it is merely a question of the ability to 
associate data with row and column headers; 


Notes:

[1] http://wiki.whatwg.org/wiki/Differences_from_HTML4#Dropped_Attributes

[2] the WHAT WG's TABLE model:
http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/#the-table

quote

Content model: 
   In this order: optionally a caption element, followed by 
   either zero or more colgroup elements, followed optionally 
   by a thead element, followed optionally by a tfoot element, 
   followed by either zero or more tbody elements or one or 
   more tr elements, followed optionally by a tfoot element 
   (but there can only be one tfoot element child in total).

unquote


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             Gregory J. Rosmaita, oedipus@hicom.net
  Camera Obscura: http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/index.html
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Received on Sunday, 10 June 2007 21:04:36 GMT

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