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Re: Tables and the Summary attribute

From: Sailesh Panchang <sailesh.panchang@deque.com>
Date: Thu, 22 Sep 2005 13:51:08 -0400
Message-ID: <002101c5bf9e$36a92580$9a01a8c0@deque.local>
To: "WAI Interest Group" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

> > However, you could argue that it's like adding a blank alt attribute.
> > However, you could argue that it's like saying "no, I haven't forgotten
> > about the summary attribute, there's just no need for it on this table".

1. The HTML specs make alt mandatory on certain non-text elements like
images.
"The alt attribute must be specified for the IMG and AREA elements. It is
optional for the INPUT and
APPLET elements".

The summary for a table is optional as it is intended for rendering to
non-visual   user agents. Therefore the summary cannot be compared to the
alt. A summary that says "layout table" or similar is like having    an alt
that says "decorative image" and therefore I am against it.
2. By the way JAWS, WinEyes and HPR disregard the empty summary
attribute(summary="") and announce nothing to the user. So one could use
that for layout tables.  An automated accessibility checker could use that
as a simple identifier for layout tables. But as the summary is optional,
one cannot force all developers to use it. Then the logic of the checker
breaks!
3. In my opinion the summary should be used only on complex data tables
firstly to convey the structure of the table... describe col. and row
spanning etc. The essence of the data in the table may also be included in
the summary if it is not already part of the page's visible text  content.
By "essence" I refer to things that would stand out to a sighted user
instantly like trend, relationships, range, high and low points.
Thanks,
Sailesh Panchang
Senior Accessibility Engineer
Deque Systems (www.deque.com)
11180 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite #400
Reston VA 21091
E-mail: sailesh.panchang@deque.com
Tel: 703-225-0380 (ext 105)
Received on Thursday, 22 September 2005 18:00:25 GMT

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