W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-gl@w3.org > July to September 1998

Re: Tables - my thoughts

From: Jon Gunderson <jongund@staff.uiuc.edu>
Date: Thu, 23 Jul 1998 12:45:01 -0500
Message-Id: <199807231745.MAA05505@staff1.cso.uiuc.edu>
To: nir dagan <dagan@upf.es>
Cc: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
My approach is pragmatic since tables are used for formatting.  Current CSS
positioning implmentations on Navigator and Explorer are slightly
different, resulting in compatibility concerns by authors wanting to use
CSS positioning instead of tables.  

Being in the area of rehabilitation for a long time.  I don't think that
WAI saying that people should not use tables will be compeling enough for a
number of reasons:

1. Most authors using authoring tools may not even know the difference
between TABLES and CSS.
2. Many HTML authors are concerned primarily with the visual look and feel
and view HTML as a presentation language and would not switch to CSS if it
meant their pages would look significantly different in non-CSS graphical
3. Most documentation on HTML and educational resources talk about using
tables for formatting.
4. To people who know about the foundations of HTML they can see the "hack"
of using TABLE for spatial layout, but for people with less information
they do not see it as a "hack".  To tell them it is a "hack" and they
shouldn't use them may turn them away from accessibility.

My primary interest is improving accessibility.  If we can make the authors
more comfortable and give them more flexibility in providing accessibility
I would be willing add META information to TABLEs to help them improve
accessibility.  If the language is being missused from original intent, I
don't think WAI should ignore that in it's guidelines.


At 12:30 PM 7/23/98 +0200, nir dagan wrote:
>Jon wrote:
>> Has there been any discussions of labeling tables for their purpose?
>>  For example indicating a table is for column formatting or for data. A
>> crude way would be to use the "class" attribute with "wai-column" or
>> "wai-data".  A user agent could then make some assumptions about
>> presentation of the table information. 
>In my view there is a certain balance of what user 
>agents should do and what authors should do. W3C recommendations
>allow authors to write informative accessible tabular information
>using HTML4.0 tables, and arrange text-blocks side by side using CSS2.
>Authors should write using these recommendations (both of which degrade 
>gracefully to HTML3.2 browsers that do not support stylesheets) 
>and user agents should support these recommendations.
>When an author is using a table for layout justifying it by misusing 
>the term "backward compatibility",  he is violating the 
>first principle of HTML writing of separation of meaning
>from presentation. An author who hacks in this way may counter-
>hack in his *author's* aural stylesheet to get his layout-tables 
>to be converted to normal blocks by converting TABLE, TBODY, TR, TD 
>into DIV via CSS2 display properties.
>One should keep in mind though that HTML browsers who support CSS2 may 
>ignore (according to the CSS2 spec.) the display property. Also the CSS2
>recommends to HTML authors not to use the display properties, as the HTML
>elements have commonly agreed meanings. 
>In other words, it is better not to hack, than to hack and then 
>counter-hack, hoping that the so called disabled user have the latest 
>XML-CSS2 browser.
>Nir Dagan.
Jon Gunderson, Ph.D., ATP
Coordinator of Assistive Communication and Information Technology
Division of Rehabilitation - Education Services
University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign
1207 S. Oak Street
Champaign, IL 61820

Voice: 217-244-5870
Fax: 217-333-0248
E-mail: jongund@uiuc.edu
WWW:	http://www.staff.uiuc.edu/~jongund
Received on Thursday, 23 July 1998 13:46:01 UTC

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