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*Complex* Tables, Forms, Labeling, I'm still confused

From: Leanne Phillips <leanne.phillips2@verizon.net>
Date: Wed, 13 Nov 2002 23:03:57 -0500
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <KNEOKPELBNAHEGPLIKMMKEGLCEAA.leanne.phillips2@verizon.net>

Hi all,

I've skimmed over a quick search for the topics since early March, looking
for topics about forms presented as tables.  I only found 3-4 dealing
obviously (in their subject lines) with the issue, and none of those threads
really hit on the problem I'm currently having.

We have what I can only call a complex table.  The data has to be entered in
the same format it'll be displayed in (customer requirement) - that is, the
appearance of the entry form has to look like the output form.  Which is
*definitely* a complex table.

So, I have the two-logical-column-headers problem, and am doing all the
stuff with scope/id+headers, because it's a table.

However, I can't put the labels for the entry fields into their table cells,
in any way that is obvious to visual users.  My understanding of <label> is
that it is displayed as text on the screen for visual users, and is supposed
to be read as the prompt for a given element.  If I'm right about that, then
I can't use the label idea, I think.

If I could rely on JAWS (in particular) and others to read the row and
headers I would be (almost; it's a very complex form) all set.  However, my
user who uses JAWS on a daily basis wasn't able to get both - I don't want
those users to have to switch between forms mode and regular, table-handling
mode.  Or whatever they're called.  That's obviously Not Good for usability
even if you can call it accessible.

So, how should I go about doing these?  I don't think I can use multiple
for a single entry field, nor re-use the label for multiple fields, as I'd
to do (each cell would need two labels; each label would have to be used for
a minimum of 3, and more usually 5 or 15, cells).

Should I use the title attribute for each of those cells?  Will JAWS read
properly?  Is there another workaround?

I'm looking for both 'what's right' - how *should* it be marked up - and
does it actually work' - what'll make it work given that markup
isn't always as complete.

As a completely side issue, I've been told that JAWS doesn't handle <em> and
<strong> - is this true?  Is there no indication to the JAWS user that those
tags are being used?  (I haven't noticed either way in my own use of JAWS,
I use it solely for testing, and haven't got the same familiarity with the
modes and setup options as might be needed to make it work.)

If I haven't described my table problem clearly enough, let me know and I'll
try to provide useful clarification.  It seems that the major problem is
most forms-in-tables are in tables for layout only, not for data, and thus
can be handled thoroughly different from tables-for-data.

Thanks for any help,
Received on Wednesday, 13 November 2002 23:05:31 UTC

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