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Re: Tables - my thoughts

From: Jason White <jasonw@ariel.ucs.unimelb.EDU.AU>
Date: Fri, 24 Jul 1998 11:28:39 +1000 (AEST)
To: WAI Markup Guidelines <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.SUN.3.95.980724111946.2870A-100000@ariel.ucs.unimelb.EDU.AU>
The most important consideration here is that the use of tables purely for
purposes of layout is contrary to the intention of the HTML specification
and ought to be strongly discouraged in favour of style sheet positioning,
as soon as the latter is supported by user agents. This is why the
guidelines have been carefully expressed to make it clear that "layout
tables" are only permitted on an interim basis, pending the implementation
of CSS 2 positioning. A table prescribes a relationship between a set of
header cells and a set of data cells, thereby grouping related data into
categories. This is the assumption which underlies the attributes that
were added to HTML 4.0 so as to provide for speech output and better data
base integration (HEADERS, SCOPE, AXIS, SUMMARY, etc.).

For this reason I would not regard it as appropriate to offer any further
support within user agents or otherwise, for the misuse of table
constructs. Authoring tool developers in particular need to ensure that
their products generate appropriate CSS positioning rules. I think the
user agents will support positioning first, with the authoring tools
following closely behind.

Perhaps the guidelines should make it clearer that the misuse of tables
for layout purposes amounts to poor design practice and is problematic
from the standpoint of accessibility, when considered in relation to
today's HTML user agents. On the other hand, given the ability to
manipulate and selectively deactivate style sheets at the client end, the
proper use of positioning would allow the layout to be adjusted (the text
would be linearized and formatted according to the HTML elements used).

Perhaps thiese issues could be more fully addressed in the Techniques
Received on Thursday, 23 July 1998 21:28:19 UTC

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