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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


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
> text for tables."  Since HTML requires an alt attribute for every
> 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 
will fail, and the HTML specification does not require a summary attr, 
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 
something like summary="Republican Presidents have created the largest
deficits" or the like.  (Assuming a table that shows presidents, that 
party, and budget deficits, per year.)


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 UTC

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