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Re: summary="" in HTML5

From: Steven Faulkner <faulkner.steve@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2009 10:25:49 +0000
Message-ID: <55687cf80902240225n4e6a9d16lf46d2f173329df19@mail.gmail.com>
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Cc: "Gregory J. Rosmaita" <oedipus@hicom.net>, HTMLWG <public-html@w3.org>, wai-xtech@w3.org, wai-liaison@w3.org, janina@rednote.net, w3c-wai-pf@w3.org
Hi Ian,

> Before I jump in to the e-mails themselves, I want to make sure we all
> agree on the underlying goals that we are trying to accomplish.

> Problem statement: some users find navigating tables complicated, and
> would like a description of the table so that they can make better use of
> the table. Such users might be blind, using an accessibility tool, or
> might have cognitive difficulties, or might just be unfamiliar with the
> structure of particularly complicated tables.

I don't agree with the underlying goals in relation to @summary, the
use of @summary has  been discussed in terms of its scope as set out
in HTML 4.01

"This attribute provides a summary of the table's purpose and
structure for user agents rendering to non-visual media such as speech
and Braille."[1]

It is and does try to solve a subset of your problem statement, the
other aspects of your problem statement can be handled by providing,
for example, a paragraph before the table with content that describes
the table.

What @summary does, but HTML5 omission of it does not is provide an
explicitly associated container for text that can be unambiguously
identifed as a summary of a data table. For a user group that has
unique problems in understanding data organized into a tabular format.

the issue can be encapsulated as:
"Visually rendered tables are persistent and nonlinear entities that
can be studied at leisure. In contrast, aural presentations of tabular
data need to proceed linearly and, since the spoken word is fleeting,
have temporal constraints." [2]

>Whether it would be used correctly is a
> question we can in fact answer, since we have ten years' worth of
> experience with sites using summary="", with ample accessibility advocacy,
> education, and law (!) to support it. I'll discuss this further below.


No, we can say that in the samples there was wide variability in its
use, whether its used strictly "correctly" is not the issue, is it
used in a way that helps or hinders those that that it is aimed at
helping is a better question, one that you have not answered. you have
decided on balance it hinders more than helps, others such as myself
have decided it helps more than hinders, I came to this conclusion
largely by talking to people who actually use screen readers and get
or don't get summary information and also by investigating how AT
presents summary information.
Note: no law states that summary has to be used, in the US for
example, section 508  1194.22 pertaining to web sites has no mention
of summary, while in WCAG 1.0 its was a priority 3 checkpoint and to
my knowledge no laws required that priority 3 checkpoints be met.

> There have been a number of studies, by Philip, yourself, myself, and
> others. They all end up showing mostly the same thing. (I look at your
> data below.)

can you provide links to the the other studies apart from mine and Philips?

>They all end up showing mostly the same thing.

your interpretation not fact. my study for example shows no uses of
summary="" and limited use on layout tables.

> It's worth noting again that this data is representative of the very best
> that we can expect from Web authors.

this is not a stament of fact, just your opinion, If i wanted to
provide a sample of the "very best" then I would go off an look for
only summary attribute use that i consider good.


> Data collected continues to show that summary="" does not provide benefits
> beyond those that could be provided by <caption>. Indeed, while previous
> data showed merely that many authors misunderstand summary="" and misuse
> it to the detriment of AT users, new data (quoted above) shows that
> authors who _do_ understand summary="", and are compelled (by law!) to use
> it,

Again, the law argument is a red herring and incorrect. As is said in
my initial email, the argument about its misuse hurting AT users does
not stand up to scrutiny. I cannot from the data i collected conclude
that these are "authors who _do_ understand summary=""" as they do not
for the most part appear to understand how to mark up tables correctly
at all.


>end up actually removing information that would be useful to users who
> don't have access to summary="" attributes!

There is not evidence to suggest that if they did not use the summary
attribute that they would provide the data using the caption, this is
merely a conclusion you have drawn to suit your argument.

[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/struct/tables.html#adef-summary
[2] http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7143026.html


regards
stevef
Received on Tuesday, 24 February 2009 10:26:37 GMT

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