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RE: Screen readers and simple data tables

From: Jim Thatcher <thatch@attglobal.net>
Date: Thu, 06 Apr 2000 17:43:22 -0500
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org, Paul Bohman <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>
Message-id: <NDBBKJDAKKEJDCICIODLKEGPCAAA.thatch@attglobal.net>

I am surprised that you thought Home Page Reader failed to give the
information you needed to hear about the tables on the subject site,
http://www.cpd.usu.edu/newsletters/#content. I believe it gives all
the information and navigation that one could expect. I would like
more of the information given automatically, however.

It is true, as the previous post on JFW attests, you have to know
how to use the assistive technology to test it.

On the subject site, I follow the skip navigation link (great) and
land on heading level 1 "Newsletters." On the next item if I ask
WhereAmI (plus then 5) I hear table 5, row 1, column 1 with 2 rows
and 4 columns, along with the table summary verbatim.

When in the table, You can enter table navigation (Enter with *) and
then the arrow keys on the numeric pad move around the table. Leave
table navigation with *.

If you had used the header attributes on the table cells containing
"current issue, all issues," then HPR's WhereAmI would have reported
that the cell is labeled with ... the contents of the appropriate header

Once one hears the carefully crafted table summary, then with HPR,
table navigation can take the user immediately to what they want.

-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org]On
Behalf Of Paul Bohman
Sent: Thursday, April 06, 2000 2:02 PM
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: Screen readers and simple data tables

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 18:42:33 UTC

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