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[Bug 14107] Non-conformance of the summary attribute for the table element makes WCAG 1.0 compliance impossible

From: <bugzilla@jessica.w3.org>
Date: Tue, 11 Oct 2011 06:02:06 +0000
To: public-html-bugzilla@w3.org
Message-Id: <E1RDVPi-0004ag-Ma@jessica.w3.org>
http://www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/show_bug.cgi?id=14107

--- Comment #4 from theimp@iinet.net.au 2011-10-11 06:02:06 UTC ---
> Does WCAG have specific requirements regarding the means of which the summary is provided?

Probably, but maybe not. It explicitly references the summary attribute by
example in a normative section:
> For example, in HTML, use the "summary" attribute of the TABLE element.
To me, that's explicit. But since it's an example, whether it counts as
explicit or merely suggestive is a question that could be argued by anyone with
enough interest in the outcome.

> If not couldn't you use other means of providing a summary? Such as a <p> after the table or using aria-describedby?

Maybe, but ARIA is far, far less well-supported, currently. WCAG must be used
in the context of an accessible end-result; you cannot meet WCAG 1.0 even if
you follow every point, if the end result is not accessible.

While this would probably, typically, be as accessible, in respect of itself,
it may trip up other accessibility issues. For example, it doesn't do much
good, to a non-visual reader, at the bottom of the table - which is where you
just suggested putting it, and where the majority of authors would put it
(because that's where it would traditionally go in a print publication), if
they chose to put one at all. You would want it before the table, so that you
can then skip the table; you couldn't skip the table if you didn't know that
there was a summary after it, though. Consider WCAG 1.0 Checkpoint 13.8:
> Place distinguishing information at the beginning of headings, paragraphs, lists, etc.

It seems to me that forbidding the summary attribute would make it much harder
for authors to use the technique of table summaries, generally, properly.

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