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Re: Current state of the summary discussion

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2009 17:28:39 +0000 (UTC)
To: Cynthia Shelly <cyns@microsoft.com>
Cc: HTML Accessibility Task Force <public-html-a11y@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0912171720240.15825@hixie.dreamhostps.com>
On Thu, 17 Dec 2009, Cynthia Shelly wrote:
> If you're ok with explanatory text being hidden in <details>, why do you 
> object to it being hidden in summary?  How do you see them as different?
> These seem the same to me, except that summary has legacy support, so 
> I'd be happy to better understand your thinking here.

Content in <details> is easily accessible to all users. Content in 
summary="" is not. IMHO that makes the former fine, and the latter not.

> There's a difference between recommending using visible text and issuing 
> a validation warning when you using hidden text.  It's the validation 
> warning that people object to.  It says that using summary is a bad 
> thing to do, and for people who spend a great deal of time and effort 
> convincing developers to do accessibility work, including adding 
> summary, this makes life very difficult.

IMHO, the people who spend a great deal of time and effort convincing 
developers to do accessibility work should be encouraging authors to (a) 
make tables simple enough that they don't need to be explained, and (b) if 
they have to make complicated tables, provide explanations for _all_ 
users, not just those with ATs. IMHO, adding summary="" (as an attribute) 
_is_ a bad thing to do. Most people who do it are wasting their time 
because they are writing text that users don't find useful, and the very 
few who actually write text that's useful to those users are writing text 
that would be useful to _everyone_ and are those not getting the most out 
of their efforts.

(By the way, I really don't think we're helping our case here by referring 
to this text as "summary" text. It's not a summary that helps users 
understand complicated tables. It's an explanation of how to use the 
table. That's not a summary.)

> I suspect that most of the objections would go away if the validation 
> warning went away, and there was just advisory text saying that it's 
> better to use visible text when you can.

I think this is bad precisely because it wouldn't be discouraging people 
from using the summary="" attribute.

Personally I'd much rather we made summary="" completely non-conforming 
and had an _error_ message instead of a warning. I can live with a warning 
as a compromise, though it doesn't make me particularly happy since I 
think it's harming long-term efforts to improve accessibility. Going 
further and just making it valid seems to me to be just ignoring 
everything we've learnt about summary="" over the past ten years.

> What if we got rid of the validation warning, positioned <details> and 
> @summary as mechanisms for including non-visible text, and then 
> discussed the value of including visible text, and situations where 
> authors might not be able to?  This seems like something we could all 
> live with, which is all that's needed for consensus.
> Is this a position we can live with?  What is required to get official 
> consensus on that?

I'm fine with that except for the bit where we get rid of the warning for 

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Thursday, 17 December 2009 17:29:31 UTC

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