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Re: Screen readers and simple data tables

From: Patrick Burke <burke@ucla.edu>
Date: Thu, 06 Apr 2000 13:57:18 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: Paul Bohman <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
JFW does most of what you want (I think):

INSERT+Z toggles Virtual PC Cursor on & off. If Virtual is off, INS+F5 
(Reformat) works (it achieves about the same decolumnizing effect that you 
get with Virtual PC).

The JFW table navigation keystrokes include:

ALT+CTRL+Numpad 5 (*urrent cell with header & row titles)

More in the JAWS INS+F1-twice help section.

I decided to send this to the list to give non-screenreader users an idea 
of both what can be accomplished & how tricky it can be. TO summarize, *if* 
you have the latest technology, there are a bunch of new keystrokes you can 
memorize ... I definitely appreciate the new features, but they're not 
intuitive qua intuitive.


At 01:23 PM 4/6/00 , Paul Bohman wrote:
> >First, what version of JFW do you have?
>I have version 3.5
> >table support for web pages is virtually non-existent, (except for
>Reformat, Insert+f5 - have you tried this?.)
>I'm not sure how to do this. When I tried insert + f5 it said that the
>function was not available in virtual PC mode, and I'm not sure how to
>change the mode.
> >Did you try viewing the table in Lynx, reading the Lynx transformed table
>with JFW?
>Lynx reads it basically the same way: it reads across each row before
>proceeding to the second row. Usually this is fine, but in the case of data
>tables, where the header cells tell you what's in each column, there needs
>to be a way to distinguish between individual cells, and to associate them
>with their headers. Maybe there is a way to do this which I am unaware of.
>Is there a way to tell the screen reader to repeat the column and/or row
>headers with each cell?
>The table that I created is not *inaccessible* really. I can still guess at
>its structure. But the fact that I have to guess makes it less desirable.
>I'm going to venture into theoretical territory and suggest one way that a
>screen reader might render this table.
><begin example>
>Row 1:
>Header Column 1: C.P.D. News
>Header Column 2: Parent News
>Header Column 3: Enables
>Header Column 4: Power or Independence
>Row 2:
>Column 1 under C.P.D. News: Current Issue, All Issues
>Column 2 under Parent News: Current Issue, All Issues
>Column 3 under Enables: Current Issue, All Issues
>Column 4 under Power or Independence: Current Issue, All Issues
><end example>
>In fact, it may be totally unnecessary to have the column headers read
>alone. It may be sufficient to start reading with row 2, as long as the
>reader says specifies the column header as it reads each cell.
>Anyway, these are a few thoughts.
>  Paul
>Steve McCaffrey
>Senior Programmer/Analyst
>Information Technology Services
>New York State Department of Education
>New York State Workgroup on Accessibility to Information Technology
>Web Design Subcommittee
> >>> "Paul Bohman" <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu> 04/06/00 03:02PM >>>
>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
>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
>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.
>Paul Bohman
Received on Thursday, 6 April 2000 16:58:41 UTC

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