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RE: summary="" in HTML5 (2 of 2)

From: Sailesh Panchang <sailesh.panchang@deque.com>
Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2009 10:19:39 -0500
Message-ID: <49a40f11.02578c0a.48d7.1b2c@mx.google.com>
To: "'Ian Hickson'" <ian@hixie.ch>, "'Gregory J. Rosmaita'" <oedipus@hicom.net>, "'Leif Halvard Silli'" <lhs@malform.no>, "'Maciej Stachowiak'" <mjs@apple.com>, "'James Graham'" <jgraham@opera.com>, "'Joshue O Connor'" <joshue.oconnor@cfit.ie>, "'Steve Axthelm'" <steveax@pobox.com>, "'Steven Faulkner'" <faulkner.steve@gmail.com>, "'Simon Pieters'" <simonp@opera.com>
Cc: "'HTMLWG'" <public-html@w3.org>, <wai-xtech@w3.org>, <wai-liaison@w3.org>, <janina@rednote.net>, "'Dan Connolly'" <connolly@w3.org>, "'Matt Morgan-May'" <mattmay@adobe.com>, "'Julian Reschke'" <julian.reschke@gmx.de>, "'W3C WAI Protocols & Formats'" <w3c-wai-pf@w3.org>
In HTML4 the summary attribute for a (data) table has the limited objective
of aiding non-visual users. So visual browsers do not expose it. I do not
see any flaw there. Experience in accessing content via a visual interface
is quite different  from accessing content via an auditory / Braille
interface and the summary is meant for this group of users. When developers
who have limited or no understanding of auditory interface are tasked with
writing summaries for data tables one cannot expect  to see summaries that
are really helpful, well written and concise. As all agree, not every table
needs a summary. A summary should contain one or both of:
i. A brief description of the structure for complex tables  if content is
grouped by rows / columns : when colspan / rowspan are used. Also useful to
indicate that data is sortable etc.  
ii. Key trends / highlights that are at once noticeable  in a large data
table 

Sometimes, even for a simple 2-column table that has only row headers and no
column headers,  a summary that tells the user to set the screen reader to
read only row headers is also useful!

If one wants to extend  the objective of summary attribute, and make it
available to all users, there will certainly be authors and users who do not
need it and resist it. If it is meant for all users, it is possible it may
be worded a little differently. When an author does indeed want to  explain
the table's design  or other highlights, he/she would write a separate
paragraph as part of normal content- then no summary would be needed.

So my point is why are people trying to  assign new roles / meanings for the
summary attribute? Again just because some folks have used it incorrectly /
misused it without really understanding what it is about, does not justify
redefining it.    
Thanks,
Sailesh Panchang
Accessibility Services Manager (Web and Software)
Deque Systems Inc. (www.deque.com)
11130 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite #140,
Reston VA 20191
Phone: 703-225-0380 (ext 105)
E-mail: sailesh.panchang@deque.com
Received on Tuesday, 24 February 2009 15:16:07 GMT

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