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Caption and Summary : [techs] Latest HTML Techniques Draft

From: Sailesh Panchang <sailesh.panchang@deque.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2003 16:42:57 -0500
Message-ID: <00ea01c3b91d$40c5a270$a201a8c0@deque.local>
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Ref: http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/WCAG20/WD-WCAG20-HTML-TECHS-20031104.html

The tech doc has always maintained that "It is rare to use both the caption element and the summary attribute (in a table) since one or the other should be enough to provide a description."
Comment:  It is a good practice to  have captions for all tables as it is like a table heading and is visible to all. But the summary is not displayed on screen and is especially meant to provide additional cues  for orientation / navigation to non-sighted users. For complex / large tables   and  tables that use row/column spanning, useful info can be conveyed through the summary  attribute. There are many times when both attributes  are complementary  to each other and the HTML tech doc should not suggest that it is rare to use both. In fact  the doc should suggest that one should  make the assessment for each table   on a case by case  basis.
Take for instance even a simple table with 6 columns that lists e-mail messages by rows. Let's say the first column contains   a checkbox for selecting messages. It is useful if the captionsays "Sent Messages Folder"  and the summary says "Use the checkbox in the first column to select   / unselect the message in the respective (or corresponding?) row".
I figured this out myself  on the MSN-Hotmail site that uses this design. A table caption and summary   would make life simpler in this context for instance.

I have pointed this out to MSN Support too. 
Sailesh Panchang
Senior Accessibility Engineer 
Deque Systems,11180  Sunrise Valley Drive, 
4th Floor, Reston VA 20191
Tel: 703-225-0380 Extension 105 
E-mail: sailesh.panchang@deque.com
Fax: 703-225-0387
* Look up <http://www.deque.com> *
Received on Tuesday, 2 December 2003 16:34:51 UTC

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