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RE: Issues of @summary and use of data for "decisions"

From: John Foliot <jfoliot@stanford.edu>
Date: Tue, 23 Jun 2009 16:51:08 -0700 (PDT)
To: "'Simon Pieters'" <simonp@opera.com>, "'Laura Carlson'" <laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com>, "'Shelley Powers'" <shelley.just@gmail.com>
Cc: "'Sam Ruby'" <rubys@intertwingly.net>, "'HTMLWG WG'" <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <051401c9f45d$779e03b0$66da0b10$@edu>
Simon Pieters wrote:
>
>
> I have
> not heard any argument as to why the user agent needs to be able to
> distinguish between the caption and the summary. (I might have missed
> it, please provide a pointer if so.)
>

Hi Simon,

@summary in a table presents a 'holistic' over-view of the table data 
structure - something that is obvious to a sighted user (who can take 
visualize an entire data table), whilst a screen reader user must go cell by 
cell by cell, row by row until such time as the end user has enough 
data-points to understand the overall structure of the table. This type of 
textual information is likely only useful to the non-sighted, although 
suggestions that it might also be of benefit to the cognitively disabled 
have been discussed with some credence.

<requested reason>
However, since most websites *must* take into consideration a visual design 
imperative as well, if this data was always viewed "on screen", then it 
would likely be less used than it already is (isn't?) today.  As Hixie noted 
here: http://www.hixie.ch/advocacy/alt-tooltips when discussing alt & 
tooltips "Some companies have been discouraged from using "alt" attributes 
on their images because they don't want them to appear as tooltips."  By the 
same reasoning then, they would not provide this summary data as in the 
clear text as it would interfere with the 'design'.  This is a real world 
problem and consideration, and one that must be acknowledged.
</requested reason>

In a perfect world then, this would be data (metadata?) that is by default 
not seen, but none-the-less in the DOM, and as such available for exposure 
_on demand_ either by AT, but perhaps also via a keystroke command or other 
mechanism built into the web browser for those who might require this data 
in a text fashion.

There has been some serious discussion on whether this information should 
remain an attribute or actually be promoted to an element, and these are 
good discussions to be had, but at the end of the day, suggesting that the 
role that this information plays could be handled by the caption element 
completely misunderstands the reason for the summary information in the 
first place.

JF
Received on Tuesday, 23 June 2009 23:51:53 GMT

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