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Re: [wcag2] Layout tables

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004 05:15:20 -0400
Message-Id: <4.3.2.7.2.20040417044405.02970008@pop3.concentric.net>
To: Web Content Accessiblity Guidelines Mailing List <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

a table, be it a layout table or a data table, is a uni-modal construct -- 
it has meaning only so far as the user has ability to perceive the 
relationships between the discrete items and their relative importance, 
which is determined by their physical placement, relative size, etc.

this has been a discussion within PF circles for at least 6 years -- len 
kasday and i led a 2 man crusade starting at CSUN '98 attempting to get 
anyone who would listen (both within the WAI and the wider W3C) to accept 
the indisputable fact that a TABLE is a visual slash uni-modal construct 
and, hence, its use should be (A) proscribed and (B) it should be 
deprecated from XHTML and added as an erratum to HTML 4.x

there is no need for layout tables -- that is what the DIV element is for 
-- and, since a table is NEVER necessary for layout, and use of tables for 
layout should no be inevitable, but anathema -- something that should be 
brought to the attention of the ER WG, as well as the AU WG, and every ML 
WG within W3C...

as for the use of tables for the presentation of data, as expressed in the 
extant markup and the design rationale behind it, it is nothing more than a 
clear cut, unequivocal case of a stylistic element masquerading as a 
structural element --
the underlying data used to populate the table should be capable of being 
repurposed into whatever form fits the users' needs, not to mention the 
capacity of the device he or she is using to access the information -- what 
is important is the data and the relationships that exist between the data 
-- a TABLE is merely one means of displaying the data and the relationships 
between them, but it is NOT the sole means, nor should it be treated as 
such -- especially not because quote everyone does it unquote

it is the data and the relationship between the data that is all important 
and which needs to be documented and provided with markup that binds it in 
a relational manner not only to the other discrete data elements, but to 
the data classification scheme and any and every grouping or statistical same

as i have argued upon innumerable occasions in the past, the best 
illustration that a TABLE is merely a stylistic convention onto which some 
level of informational and relational binding has been grafted 
after-the-fact is the original WCAG 1.0 techniques document description of 
how an alternative browser or assistive technology, in conjunction with a 
mainstream browser, should be able to repurpose the underlying data that 
has been marked up in document source as a TABLE:
http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-HTML-TECHS/#tables
especially:
http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-HTML-TECHS/#identifying-table-rows-columns

gregory.

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            Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
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Received on Saturday, 17 April 2004 05:07:38 GMT

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