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Re: Layout versus data tables proposal for null summary attribute

From: Elizabeth J. Pyatt <ejp10@psu.edu>
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2004 09:50:37 -0400
Message-Id: <p06100500bd54e948f109@[]>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

Jesper Tverskov wrote:

>The  definition of data tables shows us the main problem:
>Proposed definition for data tables:
>"Data tables are those tables in HTML that do or should have row and/or
>column headings (TH's), do or should have captions, and do or should
>have other markup, such as summary, scope, and other attributes and
>elements associated with tabular data."

To me, the main problem with the definition is that it is circular. 
It doesn't tell you WHEN you need to include TH, CAPTION, etc. My 
defition of a data table is one that presents a structured list of 
content organized into specific rows and columns.

A list of names and phone numbers IS a data table because you have a 
designated column for names and a designated column for phone 
numbers. A layout table isn't usually quite so rigidly organized in 
terms of where content must be placed.

>Most data tables do not use headers or captions, etc. because the tables
>are too simple and easy to understand for ordinary users without them.
>Using headers, etc., are often overkill if all you have are two columns
>with names and addresses.
>So the "should have" is not right in the above definition. A table is a
>data table if there are headers, etc., or if the table could have had
>headers, etc.
>The best approach is then to say:
>If a data table is so simple that proper headers, etc. are not present
>but could have been used, the data table should at least use the summary
attribute in order to be recognized as a data table.

I do disagree with the point above. A simple table of name and phone 
number  is clear when you can see how the content is organized 
visually,  but when it is "strung" out as text in a screen reader, 
the organization will never be as clear.

I make it a practice to include  a TH for all data tables - it 
doesn't disctract sighted viewers that much. I would think adding the 
SUMMARY  like "This is a list of names and phone numbers, organized 
by name, then number" would actually be MORE redundant then just 
having the TH tags to begin with.

My .02 currency unit contribution.


Elizabeth J. Pyatt, Ph.D.
Instructional Designer
Education Technology Services, TLT/ITS
Penn State University
ejp10@psu.edu, (814) 865-0805 or (814) 865-2030 (Main Office)

210 Rider Building II
227 W. Beaver Avenue
State College, PA   16801-4819
Received on Friday, 27 August 2004 13:51:09 UTC

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