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fear of "invisible metadata" [was Re: retention of summary attribute for TABLE element]

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <oedipus@hicom.net>
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2007 12:01:22 -0400
To: James Graham <jg307@cam.ac.uk>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-Id: <20070618155408.M65196@hicom.net>

> Summary is explicitly invisible metadata and therefore is more 
> likely to be missing or inaccurate than data that is visible to 
> all UAs. 

1. poor authoring practices should NOT sway or inform our decisions -- if 
markup is being misused, we need to be more precise in the definitions of 
elements and properties, AND we must insist that -- just as ALT is 
required for an image -- summary be a REQUIRED attribute of the TABLE 

2. invisible to whom?  it is perceptible by those for whom a summary is 
of essential utility, while for those who can't visually process the 
contents of the summary attribute have the table ITSELF to provide them 
with the orientation mechanisms which summary provides those who cannot 

> I hypothesize that in many cases pages already include text that 
> summarises the contents of a table to the extent needed to identify 
> whether the table is of interest; in order to allow non-visual 
> browsers to easily scan a page, I would provide a mechanism to 
> associate this text with the table. Authors wishing to provide extra 
> information hidden from visual UAs (e.g. because it describes the 
> table in a level of detail not required by sighted users) could use 
> CSS to explicitly hide that information. 

NO, NO, NO -- summary information should not be hidden by CSS -- this 
isn't about style, it's about substance -- mainly, substantive 
information about an HTML element that has NOTHING to do with style, and 
EVERYTHING to do with substance -- in fact, i don't understand your 
argument at all -- summary should be deprecated because it is invisible 
to visual users?  what kind of logic is that?  the whole damn document is 
invisible to blind users, or only partially visible to low vision users, 
so i think your fear of quote invisible unquote metadata is unfounded and 
unrealistic...  visually, it is possible to obtain an overview of a 
document, and moving one's eyeballs has no effect on navigation -- blind 
users don't have that luxury, which is why quote invisible metadata 
unquote, such as summary are necessary...

visual users DON'T need a summary, due to the constant reinforcement of 
the TABLE's structure, function and contents which is a side effect of 
vision and the ability to associate data via spatial relationships...  
sure, a summary could be yanked from the TABLE and displayed to those who 
want slash need it, but for those of us who cannot see, or have a VERY 
limited viewport available at any given time, summary is necessary...  
you wouldn't deprecate ALT or LONGDESC would you, simply because to most 
users that information is "invisible", so what is the hang-up about 
summaries for tables?

the  content of the summary attribute can be reused in any number of 
ways, but it MUST exist in order to orient and contextualize the 
information being presented by the TABLE

CONSERVATIVE, n.  A statesman who is enamored of existing evils,
as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them 
with others.         -- Ambrose Bierce, _The Devil's Dictionary_
             Gregory J. Rosmaita, oedipus@hicom.net
  Camera Obscura: http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/index.html
Received on Monday, 18 June 2007 16:01:39 UTC

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