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Re: How to make complex data tables more accessible to screen-reader users

From: Lachlan Hunt <lachlan.hunt@lachy.id.au>
Date: Mon, 06 Jul 2009 18:29:22 +0200
Message-ID: <4A522662.5060902@lachy.id.au>
To: Shelley Powers <shelley.just@gmail.com>
Cc: Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>, public-html@w3.org, www-archive <www-archive@w3.org>
Shelley Powers wrote:
> On Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 9:41 AM, Lachlan Hunt<lachlan.hunt@lachy.id.au>  wrote:
>> About a week ago, I tried to start a discussion on how to obtain proper
>> scientific data [1]; sent in response to your repeated attempts to discredit
>> the data we have.  But it's surprising to me that rather than even attempt
>> to contribute to producing a proper scientific study in any way at all,
>> you'd rather continue you're attempts to discredit what we have, say we
>> can't get anything else.
>
> But those suggestions weren't proper scientific studies -- not if the
> end goal is determining which is the best approach from an
> accessibility and usability point of view.

The end goal is to determine the best solution that balances usability 
and accessibility from an end user point of view, with the the ability 
of authors to get it sufficiently right in practice.

A theoretically perfect solution from an end user 
usability/accessibility POV is no good in practice if the demands on 
authors to get it right are too great and impractical.  Likewise, a 
solution that focuses too much on author ability while ending up with a 
result that isn't at all usable by end users isn't either.

Besides, I don't claim that my suggestions were perfect.  I'm sure there 
are many improvements that can be made.  But, as I wrote, my purpose was 
not to sort out all the details myself, but rather to get the group 
involved in sorting out the details together.

> To study the latter, we would need to ask for a group of volunteers
> from the community, both those who need AT and those who don't. We
> would need to derive appropriate test data, providing tests with
> summary, and tests without, or tests trying out other variations...

Indeed, the results of a study like that would also be useful.  But 
that's no reason discount the results of a study focussing on authoring 
practices.

> When you try to analyze data related to existing web pages, it's
> virtually impossible to filter out any number of factors, including
> the fact that HTML tables were misused, the explanation of summary in
> HTML 4 may have been faulty, lack of promotion for summary until
> recently, and so on--even up to the point of testing out exactly how
> random the web page data is, and how representative is the data.

It's impossible to get a perfect dataset in any study.  What we can do, 
however, is filter based on a few selected major criteria

>> So I think it is naiive to say that we don't have resources
>> available to do proper studies. We just need to sort out the
>> details of what needs to be done and do them.
>
> Again, you're relying almost exclusively on data derived from existing
> web pages

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.  I'm not saying we 
should relying exlusively on analysis of existing web sites; certainly, 
usability studies would also be valuable.  But we certainly must not 
ignore existing practice, especially if it indicates problems with the 
design that affects how authors make use of it.

> (without any ability to control how the data is collected),

There are various ways we can control how the data is collected.  As I 
mentioned in my previous e-mail, we can, for example, restrict the 
survey to specific genres of web sites that are most likely to have 
complex data tables where summaries are most useful.  There may be 
other, perhaps even more effective, ways to filter data too.  But it's 
short sighted to simply say there is no way and give up without even trying.

> but the issue really is based on human usability and overall
> accessibility.

There is more than one aspect of this issue that needs to be looked at, 
ranging from existing authoring practices and how to improve those, to 
the usability of various technical solutions by end users.

> I realize this is a discussion we've had in the past. I copied this
> email to www-archive. I believe we should continue this particular
> discussion in that location.

I don't see why we should exclude the rest of the group from discussions 
about how to go about obtaining more useful results.

-- 
Lachlan Hunt - Opera Software
http://lachy.id.au/
http://www.opera.com/
Received on Monday, 6 July 2009 16:30:04 GMT

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