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Re: Linearizing Tables

From: Steven McCaffrey <smccaffr@MAIL.NYSED.GOV>
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2000 13:29:17 -0400
Message-Id: <s8f1d73f.024@mail.nysed.gov>
To: <kford@teleport.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Hi Kelly:
 A very good example illustrating many existing problems.

     As pointed out in a previous thread, 
the example table in the techniques document of the table of cups of coffe consumed by each senator does *not*
transform  as described, using JFW 3.2.  I don't know if JFW 3.5 transforms it as described.
Even if it does, developers should not assume all users have JFW,
nor that all JFW users have the latest version. 

If the row and column headings were  spoken before the cells, this would be an adequate linearized version.  However, I still maintain that an adequate  linearized version of a table does not provide equivalent access, although it 
does provide  a barely minimum degree of access.

The following applies to      data tables.
Linearized tables do not provide equivalent access.  Otherwise, why do sighted people use a two dimensional visual presentation and not a linear list of the cells? 
In other words, if a person were to read a large data table to a friend over the phone, one cell at a time, would the person listening to the verbal enunciation of the table feel that he/she is getting the information out that she/he wants from the table?
Clearly not.  What would happne in this case?
The person listening would no doubt ask to have certain cells or even entire rows read out again, without having to listen to the entire table again, one cell at a time.  For data tables containing numerical data,(unlike the landsend.com example),  
the listener might ask the reader  at the other end of the phone to answer a question like
"How does the values of X change over time?  Is there a pattern?  Where does it reach a maximum..."
In a table like that in the landsend.com example, if prices are also listed, one might want to ask,
"What is the cheapest , most expensive etc." just to name a few questions I might want to ask.
Another class of question might be "Is there product x in size range Y?" 

All this, in a slightly different context, I have raised before in the How to describe flowcharts, ... thread.
all this information could be provided in a long describption ahead of time, or by
some interactive database-like query, (XML to the rescue?).

     Until such descriptions or interactivity exists, access to data tables is not equivalent,
linearized or not.  And the fact of the matter is that still,
many, if not most, screen readers do not even provide a correct linearized version for all tables.
    I accept a correctly linearized version of data tables as only an interim solution
and hope the W3C WAI is still working on truly equivalent access to data tables.
Tables are going to be used more and more, especially in data intensive areas like statistical or budgetary information.
The overall principle boils down to the fact that a two dimensional visual representation 
of a table is incorrectly assumed to be the definition of a table, and is thus,
by its very nature, confusing presentation with logical structure.
The definition used in the WCAG of "tabular information" is, very roughly, correct, and yet
the WCAG and techniques documents still insist that a linearized version is accessible.
As I said, a linearized version provides a bare minimum degree of access but falls far short of equivalent access.



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 

>>> Kelly Ford <kford@teleport.com> 04/09/00 11:09AM >>>
Hi All,

Perhaps this is detailed in a techniques document someplace so pointers are 
appreciated.  Further I'm not an expert on HTML coding as much as I am on 
figuring out how to handle whatever web pages toss my way.  I have a 
question about techniques for coding tables so they linearize correctly.

Below is an example of how a table from Lands' End reads in JFW and 
Window-Eyes.  Is there a way to code this table so it still looks the same 
visually but so the column headings of Chino, Poplin and Active would 
appear in better locations when the table is linearized by the web browser 
and screen reader?

The word "link" appears in front of anything that's a link and the word 
"graphic" in front of anything that's a picture.

This is roughly how one section of the Men's Shorts page appears in 
Window-Eyes or JFW.  Lands' End uses this same layout for all their product 



Link Graphic Plain-front
Link Graphic Plain-front
Link Plain-front
Link Graphic Pleated
Link Pleated
Link Graphic Drawstring
Link Drawstring
Link Graphic Cargo
Link Cargo
View Thumbnails...
Link Graphic Plain-front
Link Graphic Plain-front
Link Plain-front
Link Graphic Pleated
Link Pleated
Link Graphic Drawstring
Link Drawstring
View Thumbnails...
Link Graphic Ripstop Hikers
Link Graphic Ripstop Hikers
Link Ripstop Hikers
Link Graphic Cargo Water
Link Cargo Water
Link Graphic Tactel Adventure
Link Tactel Adventure
Link Graphic Knit Sport
Link Knit Sport
Link Graphic Knit Cargo
Link Knit Cargo
View all...
Received on Monday, 10 April 2000 13:32:18 UTC

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