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RE: Table Questions

From: Morris, Lynn <LMorris@hrsa.gov>
Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 12:07:40 -0400
Message-ID: <296B71923206D41181CD00508BAC26D1015B82F0@HRSA1>
To: "'Liz Roberts'" <liz@netlogix.net>
Cc: "'w3c-wai-ig@w3.org'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Hi Liz--

Based on what I've read, Section 508 does NOT ban using tables for design
purposes (although W3C does discourage that practice.  "Data tables" are
essentially tables used to set up information, like a flight schedule or for
comparison of data (see http://www.w3.org/WAI/wcag-curric/sam43-0.htm for

Here's what the U.S. Dept. of Justice technical assistance survey recommends
to make data tables 508-compliant (http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/508/web.htm):

Table Accessibility Checklist for Use with Dept. of Justice Survey

*Avoid using tables simply for formatting paragraphs of text. Some screen
readers have trouble reading table cells that include multi-line text.

*Do not use the <PRE> tag for laying out tables.

*Use the <TABLE> tag's "summary" attribute to include a meaningful
description of the contents of the table. This attribute will likely be
supported by browsers in the future.

*Use the following attributes consistently for headers and data cells in the

*Use the "id" attribute of the <TH> tag to identify columns. This attribute
will likely be supported by browsers in the future.

*Use the "headers" attribute of the <TD> tag to link cells to those columns.
This attribute will likely be supported by browsers in the future.

*Check your web page using a screen reader prior to publication. If you are
unable to do so, read the contents of the table out loud to someone who has
not read it and is not looking at the screen. Read the table as you would a
book, starting at the upper left corner, reading each line in its entirety
before going to the next line. If they can understand the table, it is
likely that it is accessible.

And if you are using tables for design alone, DON'T use this markup.  Just
test the page to make sure it makes sense when linearized
(http://www.temple.edu/inst_disabilities/piat/wave/index.html is a good tool
for this).

-----Original Message-----
From: Liz Roberts [mailto:liz@netlogix.net]
Sent: Friday, May 11, 2001 9:49 AM
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: Table Questions

I have a few questions regarding table use & construction:

First, as table use relates to sec 508, my understanding is that tables are
not completely barred from use as a layout tool.  Is this accurate?
(Referring only to 508.)

Second, what exactly defines a "data table"?  For instance, how does a data
table differentiate itself from a "layout table" that has a header graphic
in the first row, navigation in the second, and content in the third.  Could
the first cell holding the header graphic be correctly labeled as a table
header (<th>)?  (What would be great is a test or syllogism of some sort
which would help me clearly define data tables.)

Third, are there screen readers that can utilize the "scope," "id," and
"headers" attributes?  How valuable are these additions?  (And if anyone
knows of a detailed tutorial on their use, I would greatly appreciate it;
I'm getting better at reading the HTML spec, but there are limited

Thank you,
Received on Friday, 11 May 2001 12:11:42 UTC

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