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RE: Your opinion please: comma separated table values

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 20:06:29 -0500 (EST)
To: David Norris <kg9ae@geocities.com>
cc: "Leonard R. Kasday" <kasday@ACM.org>, WAI <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.04.9902171955530.4690-100000@tux.w3.org>
I like David's suggestion.

Another thought is to play to the strengths. The difficulty with tables is
that they can't be read column-wise, but only row-wise, by most systems.
So one obvious thing to do is lay them out both ways, if necessary adding
the alternate via some kind of link.

Another alternative is to generate an alternative which includes the
header information in each cell.

Both of these are repair strategies, and not really elegant solutions -
the elegant solution is to read tables better. They are after all, there
because they provide an important way to represent information. 

If you have the ability to generate your pages from a database then there
is a lot you can do. My own experience with this is mostly using Cold
Fusion, although I have done some of it in PERL, but it certainly doesn't
require very complex magic. It just requires some programming ability, and
the afore-mentioned access to some kind of on-the-fly generation which can
be configured to produce accesssible HTML in the first place. Some of the
obvious choices for such a job are ruled out because thye insit on using
javascript or Java controls, or images without appropriate alt-text, or
some other basic failure.

Charles McCN

On Wed, 17 Feb 1999, David Norris wrote:

  In the case of screen readers.  I think it more productive, overall,
  to design speech enabled user agents that better render HTML.  (For
  example, T.V. Raman's EmacSpeak running a speech friendly browser.)  
  Making tables accessible isn't as much of an issue as making a program
  that renders tables in an accessible manner.  (I think you hinted
  toward this issue.)  The W3C guidelines do a good job to provide for
  accessible tables, one must follow those guidelines.  Of course,
  following those guidelines doesn't always lead to accessible tables,
  to the user, because there are few programs that do a good job of
  rendering them.  It seems, to me, that many screen readers spend a
  large portion of their code working around bad HTML than following the
  W3C guidelines.
  
  Having an alternative format for a spread sheet could be a good thing.
  Although, many spreadsheets support HTML table imports these days.  It may
  have the side benefit of rendering the table in more accessible software.  I
  would expect the link to be marked as an alternative file type, though.  <A
  href="someAltFile" rel="alternate"
  type="text/comma-separated-values">someAltFileDescription</A>  It might be
  nice to place this in a LINK tag in the head. <LINK href="someAltFile"
  rel="alternate" type="text/comma-separated-values" title="someFileTitle">  I
  know, most browsers don't render this.  But, I would still expect one to use
  it for those that do.  Many speech friendly browsers, Lynx for example,
  support LINK.
  
  ,David Norris
  
  World Wide Web - http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Lab/1652/
  Page via mail - 412039@pager.mirabilis.com
  ICQ Universal Internet Number - 412039
  E-Mail - kg9ae@geocities.com
  

--Charles McCathieNevile            mailto:charles@w3.org
phone: +1 617 258 0992   http://purl.oclc.org/net/charles
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative    http://www.w3.org/WAI
MIT/LCS  -  545 Technology sq., Cambridge MA, 02139,  USA
Received on Wednesday, 17 February 1999 20:06:37 GMT

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