W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > February 2009

Re: table-summary argument

From: Robert J Burns <rob@robburns.com>
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2009 17:53:32 -0600
Cc: Philip Taylor <pjt47@cam.ac.uk>, Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-Id: <6539BC6A-3F9C-4402-AAD7-BE53CCEAE4C6@robburns.com>
To: Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>

Hi Sam,,

On Feb 3, 2009, at 4:05 PM, Sam Ruby wrote:

> Philip Taylor wrote:
>> Larry Masinter wrote:
>>> [...]
>>> The proposal is to remove an accessibility-related attribute,  
>>> without
>>> offering a replacement for its use, with no explanation except  
>>> they looked at the Google index and figured they could axe it.
>> That seems to be misrepresenting the position that has resulted in  
>> the summary attribute not being in the HTML5 draft.
> I'm late to the party, but reading the following link, it does  
> appear to be a misrepresentation.  In general, drawing conclusions  
> and inferring motivation without doing the proper research isn't the  
> best way to start an open discussion.
>> See http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2008Dec/ 
>> 0175.html for a summary of various issues.
> Restoring a bit of context from Larry's original e-mail:
>> The unanimous position of PF and WAI on @summary is that it's needed.
>> http://esw.w3.org/topic/HTML/SummaryForTABLE
> Scanning both links, it seems relatively likely to me that the HTML5  
> working group considered the points raised on the PFWG link; and it  
> seems less likely to me that the PFWG considered the points raised  
> in the HTML5 link, but that could be my ignorance.

I would think that the PFWG has considered the points raised in the  
HTML5 link, and found them quite insufficient (as many of us have said  
already). The summary attribute is intended for summary descriptions  
of tables intended for those unable to view the table. Often times  
table convey their meaning visually quite quickly to a user without  
any explanation at all. It is these types of tables that require a  
summary for non-visual users. Depending on authors to state this  
information in a caption for example—information which will be obvious  
for visual users—will definitely discourage accessibility.

At the same time, it is true (contrary to what other have said) that  
the misuse of the summary attribute could be detrimental for  
accessibility since users needing this information may become  
frustrated with the poor authoring of the summary content/value. This  
problem should not be addressed by dropping support for table  
summaries, but by providing better advice to authors and  
implementations. There's no reason a null summary attribute should  
cause any problems for accessibility (the attribute summary='' can  
simply be ignored). Using summary='layout table' is another story and  
could lead to user frustration when overuse/abused like that, but that  
indicates that authors need something like 'role' to indicate the role  
a table serves in the document. Again, it doesn't follow that the  
feature can be dropped from HTML.

So It appears to me completely possible that the PFWG is aware of the  
strawman arguments Ian has put forward about the summary attribute  
(and using those strawman arguments to justify the attribute's  
removal) and has found those arguments entirely unconvincing (or even  
embarrassing to hear repeated).

Take care,
Received on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 23:54:13 UTC

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