W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html-a11y@w3.org > February 2010

RE: summarization information delivery options: attribute or element

From: John Foliot <jfoliot@stanford.edu>
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2010 15:10:52 -0800 (PST)
To: "'Gez Lemon'" <g.lemon@webprofession.com>, "'Gregory J. Rosmaita'" <oedipus@hicom.net>
Cc: <public-html-a11y@w3.org>
Message-ID: <010d01cab66f$c6a57e00$53f07a00$@edu>
Gez Lemon wrote:
> Excuse the top post, but I want to talk generally about your email
> about whether summary should be an attribute or an element. Firstly,
> thank you for your considered email explaining why you think summary
> would be better as an element. I agree that this needs to be addressed
> before coming up with solutions.

I agree Gez, and in a bit of shameless self-promotion, I just posted a very 
brief blog posting about this very topic: http://john.foliot.ca. I welcome 
your thoughts, as well as the thoughts of others.

I personally like Cynthia's proposal, as it addresses the *problem* at a 
level that accepts that the issue does affect more than just screen reader 
users. It also seeks to extend the solution, while also acknowledging the 
significant resistance to @summary. As some-one once said to me, you can be 
right, or you can be married. Personally, I prefer to focus on how we 
support the end users, rather than the specific technique involved - if the 
<details> proposal delivers on the solution, but meets less resistance than 
@summary, the end user still wins, no?

> I don't believe that summary should be an element, as it's supposed to
> be concise overview of the structure for people who are unable to
> determine the structure visually.

One of the points I touch on in the posting is that cognitive studies have 
shown that lists are easier to 'consume' than even paragraphs. An attribute 
couldn't take on a list, an element could. (lists are also generally quite 

> If the reason for making it an
> element is that authors can provide richer markup, then I think we're
> definitely outside the territory of a concise overview of the
> structure of a data table, and more into summary being a long
> description of the table.

I think making this content material that is inside of an element allows 
authors a level of creativity in making that content available to all users, 
not just those who have AT wired to extract @summary.

> Anyway, it will be interesting to see whether people regard the
> summary attribute as a means of providing a concise overview of the
> structure, or whether they regard it as a long description of the
> table.

"Concise" will be defined by the author, whether it is inserted as an 
attribute value or as an element value. Ensuring conciseness is not 
something that I think we want to mandate programmatically (I'm thinking of 
shades of the Twitter 140 char. debate)

Received on Thursday, 25 February 2010 23:11:27 UTC

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