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Re: Does 5.1 absolutely require TH?

From: Sailesh Panchang <sailesh.panchang@deque.com>
Date: Fri, 3 Sep 2004 13:59:23 -0400
Message-ID: <004801c491df$bf336ed0$3d01a8c0@deque.local>
To: "Bailey, Bruce" <Bruce.Bailey@ed.gov>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
> Indeed - and the code sample you mention definetly needs a row of table
> headers so that it is possible to tell which type of data is in which
> column.

Why?  The format (address, state, zip) is common enough (in the States anyway) that the type of data is implicit.  Again, is the example I provide, the AT user is not disadvantaged.
Sailesh:
Yes the "headings" are  easy to  assume by  listening to my screen reader  read the data but the problem is:
The table is definitely a data-table with contents of cells being related  to cell contents in adjacent cells. So it is not a layout table.
The accessibility problem arises as I navigate the table sideways because the screen reader will read the contents of the first row as the column heading by default. Suppose I were to run down the column that contains names of cities and  then navigate sideways I will face this problemm. Let me assure you that it is confusing to hear two zip codes (or whatever data it is) being spoken and then mentally ignore the first one and concentrate on the second one after guessing the first one is being read in place of a column header. Screen readers  do offer the option to turn off  header reading but this shifts the onus on the user to first figure what kind of table  (s)he  is faced with, does it have headers, turn off  the options and then turn them on again when he encounters another table with headers and he is able to determine that it is a data table.
So in this case or even in a table with just 2 columns you absolutely must have headers. As was suggested   by Patrick, use CSS  if needed to control appearance. Without headers it violates 5.1- no  doubt about that.
Having said that I can still give you an escape  route for a simple table : set a summary that describes the structure with column names and advise the user to read the table like a layout table by scrolling through it and not in table mode. This is a poor choice as  the user will not be able to efficiently do the task I  mentioned- find a city and then read related cells.
Sailesh Panchang
Senior Accessibility Engineer 
Deque Systems,11180  Sunrise Valley Drive, 
4th Floor, Reston VA 20191
Tel: 703-225-0380 Extension 105 
E-mail: sailesh.panchang@deque.com
Fax: 703-225-0387
* Look up <http://www.deque.com> *
Received on Friday, 3 September 2004 18:00:31 UTC

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