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Re: Tables and the Summary attribute

From: David Woolley <david@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
Date: Wed, 28 Sep 2005 07:50:05 +0100 (BST)
Message-Id: <200509280650.j8S6o6x03934@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

> 1) I am not an accountant or economist, so I don't fully understand
> financial reporting, and getting summaries from the content owners is not
> an option.

You have an upstream accessibility problem.  If you can't understand the
content, how is the reader supposed to understand it?  In general
accessibility is the responsibility of the content author, not of the
machine that is translating to HTML, whether or not that machine is
a human being.

If this is a statutory table, the best long term solution would be 
the use of a specific namespace, so that one has proper EDI (electronic
data interchange) capabilities.

> 2) The content owners and I are, in many instances, legally obligated to
> *not* lead any conclusions that may be drawn from interpreting the data
> (e.g. by describing trends).

You may be in the position where this is true.  In a lot of cases of
tables like this on the web, the real reason is that the table is there
to mislead,  but the author can only get away with that if they don't
explicitly state the misleading message ("lies, damn lies, and statistics").
I'd suggest a fairly short summary that says "Table in form mandated by
<name of legislation>, which forbids any interpretation of the data."
You could also quote the reasons that the legislation requires the
table to be produced.

> 
> 3) Preferably the summary is generated programmatically and is reusable.

The authors of AT are going to be better able to do that.  In any case it
would require rather more powerful markup.

> 
> So that leave me with discriptive narrative. To illustrate what I meant by
> descriptive narrative of table structure, consider the following:
> 
> caption: Tax and Levies Collected through the Crown's Sovereign Power (Cash).
> 
> summary:
> There are 5 columns. Columns 1 and 2 show forcasted results for 2006.
> Column 1 is the original budget. Column 2 is the estimated actual results.

This far exceeds the approximately 7 things that people can track in
short term memory and is pretty much useless as a result.

> Column 3 is the descriptive label for each row. Column 4 and 5 show
> historical results. Column 4 contains the actual results for the year
> ended 30 June 2005. Column 5 contains the actual results for the year
> ended 30 June 2004. The rows show the Income Tax reciepts by sector. Each
> sector is summarized for Individuals, Corporate Tax, Other Income Tax,
> Other Indirect Tax, and Other Sovereign Recipts. Summary rows begin with
> the word 'Total'.
> 
Received on Wednesday, 28 September 2005 20:38:22 GMT

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