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Screen readers and simple data tables

From: Paul Bohman <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>
Date: Thu, 6 Apr 2000 13:02:16 -0600
Message-ID: <01ce01bf9ffa$a0749ae0$20117b81@usu.edu>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
I have a question about tables for those who use screen readers. Although,
for the most part, tables seem to be accessible with current screen reader
technology, there are definitely times when this is not the case. Even
simple data tables can be problematic due to the way which screen readers
read them.

For example, I have a page which has a simple table with four columns and
two rows. The first row consists of the headers and the second row consists
of the data. In this case, the data consists of links to issues of
newsletters. The column headers are the titles of the newsletters, and the
cells beneath them have links to the "current issue" and to "all issues".

The problem is that neither of the screen readers that I tested it on (JAWS
and Home Page Reader) gave enough information about the table to easily
decipher its structure. Even though JAWS told me that I was entering a table
with four columns and two rows, it did not tell me where one column started
or ended. Nor did it tell me where the first row ended and the second row
began.

I was frustrated. In my mind, there is no reason why the screen reader
wouldn't be able to give me this information. All of the information is
already in the code itself. JAWS knows where each row and column begin and
end. It just doesn't tell me what it knows.

As it stands right now, the simple table that I created is reduced to a
guessing game for those using screen readers. They have to try to figure out
what row and what column they are in. I see this as a problem with the
screen readers, rather than with the coding itself. I understand that I may
have to create a workaround. I am willing to do that, but I wanted to get
some feedback from those on the list who use screen readers to see what they
thought.

By the way, the table in question is found on the following page:
http://www.cpd.usu.edu/newsletters. To get to the table quickly, click on
the first link, which allows you to skip past the main navigational menu.

Thanks
Paul Bohman
Received on Thursday, 6 April 2000 15:02:43 GMT

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