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RE: Layout versus data tables proposal for null summary attribute

From: John Foliot - WATS.ca <foliot@wats.ca>
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2004 11:58:56 -0400
To: "'Elizabeth J. Pyatt'" <ejp10@psu.edu>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <009401c48c4e$c3fc0df0$6601a8c0@bosshog>

Elizabeth wrote:
> I thought one of the purposes of the empty alt="" or alt=" " was to
> provide a dummy tag so the screen reader didn't keep announcing IMAGE
> all the time. If this is incorrect, then somebody please correct me.

Essentially, yes.  The concept of NULL means something to screen
readers... It means "   " (shh).

I would caution on using the alt=" " (with the space) though , as I have
heard it do funky things on some setups.

> I agree that other empty tags  (e.g. summary="") are probably
> redundant. 

Redundant? Perhaps, but "bad" or wrong? No.  A table with a null summary
will not break anything and is valid code.  What it *may* do is tweak
the developer to the fact that their table *may* need a summary.  Not
always, certainly, but occasionally and how can that be wrong?  (For
that matter, it may also need an ID... Another attribute which can be
redundant but also useful)

We have seen much discussion on this list about the need for more
measurable mechanical checks, and this to me is a perfect example of how
we can possibly do this.  Automated "sniffers" can check to see if the
<table> element has a summary attribute (which can be a good
accessibility feature) as well as echo back what the values of that
attribute would be.  The report reader (person) is then presented with
one of 3 results: 1) table foo has summary of "foobar table", 2) table
foo has summary of NULL, 3) table foo has no summary attribute.  In all
3 instances, a final decision MUST be made by the developer, QA person
or another vested party to decide *what* the proper solution should be.
However, any programmatic element or attribute which speeds the "human
intervention" aspect of accessibility checking cannot be all bad in my

Another 2 cents worth


John Foliot  foliot@wats.ca
Web Accessibility Specialist / Co-founder of WATS.ca
Web Accessibility Testing and Services
http://www.wats.ca   1.866.932.4878 (North America) 
Received on Friday, 27 August 2004 15:59:04 UTC

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