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Re: summary="" in HTML5 ISSUE-32

From: Gez Lemon <gez.lemon@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 25 Feb 2009 21:25:00 +0000
Message-ID: <e2a28a920902251325q101d70dcg2452a8c814f929fa@mail.gmail.com>
To: HTMLWG <public-html@w3.org>, wai-xtech@w3.org, wai-liaison@w3.org, "W3C WAI Protocols & Formats" <w3c-wai-pf@w3.org>
Apologies for weighing in late on this, but I thought I would offer
opinions for some of the common things that have come up during the

The purpose of the summary attribute is to provide a description of
how the table should be read by people with visual impairments. For
partially sighted people using screen magnifiers, or people with some
types of cognitive disabilities, that information could be useful; for
that reason, I have no objection to the information being available on
demand for anyone. For the majority of sighted users, a description of
how the table is laid out is redundant, as it will be visually
evident. It would be ideal if user agents provided a mechanism for
revealing/hiding the description, rather than making the author
responsible for revealing/hiding the information. If it's implemented
at the user agent level, it will be consistent, and more likely to be
discovered by the people that need it.

How the table is to be read by a human is a property of the table and
something that couldn't be automated by AT, as only the author could
provide that information. Putting the information outside of the table
and providing a reference to the content removes an essential property
from the table.

The problem with using aria-describedby is that aria-describedby is
intended to provide a generic long description. Just because a table
has an aria-describedby property, it does not mean that the
description is suitable for a summary. It could be any kind of long
description for the table, whereas the summary attribute has the
specific purpose of describing how a person should read the table.

I don't think there is any doubt that the attribute is required.
Suggested alternatives should ideally be a property of the table, and
designed to specifically provide a description of how the table should
be read.

Ideally, I think modifying the existing attribute so that it can be
revealed on demand is a reasonable way forward.



Supplement your vitamins
Received on Wednesday, 25 February 2009 21:25:44 UTC

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