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RE: [#293] Summary for tables

From: John M Slatin <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu>
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 2003 09:09:05 -0500
Message-ID: <B3DC65CD2AA7EF449E554548C6FE1111E0A32C@MAIL01.austin.utexas.edu>
To: "Kynn Bartlett" <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
Cc: "Michael Cooper" <michaelc@watchfire.com>, "WAI GL (E-mail)" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

Thanks, Kynn.  I know my analogy between summary and alt breaks where
the current HTML and XHTML specifications are concerned; I like the idea
of submitting this to the XHTML WG.  And I know that most tables now in
existence fail, but they also fail current WCAG checkpoints if you push
it down far enough.

As for the content of the summary, I think that's context-specific, just
as ALT text is.  I like to think of the summary as providing information
about the table that a sighted user could get from a quick scan of the
table but that would take a long time to emerge from listening to the
table.

John

John Slatin, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Technology & Learning
University of Texas at Austin
FAC 248C
1 University Station G9600
Austin, TX 78712
ph 512-495-4288, f 512-495-4524
email jslatin@mail.utexas.edu
web http://www.ital.utexas.edu
 


-----Original Message-----
From: Kynn Bartlett [mailto:kynn@idyllmtn.com] 
Sent: Friday, June 06, 2003 6:46 pm
To: John M Slatin
Cc: Michael Cooper; WAI GL (E-mail)
Subject: Re: [#293] Summary for tables



On Friday, June 6, 2003, at 02:38 PM, John M Slatin wrote:
> Rationale
> 1. Simplicity: it is easier for developers to remember that they have
> to
> provide a summary attribute if they have to do it for every table.
> (Authoring tools can eventually be considerable help here...)
> 2. Consistency: as I've said previously, I think of the summary as
"alt
> text for tables."  Since HTML requires an alt attribute for every
<img>
> element, consistency would require a summary attribute for every 
> <table>
> element.  Screen readers have already begun to support the null 
> summary.
> 3. Testability.  If the summary is a required attribute, testing tools
> can easily be set to look for it; empty summary attributes for tables
> that otherwise satisfy the tool's heuristics for identifying data 
> tables
> could then be flagged for user check, etc.

This is a good rationale, but note that nearly all tables currently in 
existence
will fail, and the HTML specification does not require a summary attr, 
although
it does require an alt attr.

Perhaps this suggestion should be submitted to the (X)HTML working group
for XHTML 2.0?

I think it's a good answer, but support will take a long time.  Also, 
we need
guidelines as to what "summary" should include.  In my opinion, it 
should be
a statement of "what you'd learn from this, in the form of what you'd 
read over
the phone to your friend who doesn't want specific details."  In other 
words,
something like summary="Republican Presidents have created the largest
deficits" or the like.  (Assuming a table that shows presidents, that 
president's
party, and budget deficits, per year.)

--Kynn

--
Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                     http://kynn.com
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain                http://idyllmtn.com
Author, CSS in 24 Hours                       http://cssin24hours.com
Inland Anti-Empire Blog                      http://blog.kynn.com/iae
Shock & Awe Blog                           http://blog.kynn.com/shock
Received on Monday, 9 June 2003 10:09:07 GMT

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