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Request for PFWG WAI review of @summary for tabular data

From: Joshue O Connor <joshue.oconnor@cfit.ie>
Date: Thu, 26 Jun 2008 15:32:59 +0100
Message-ID: <4863A89B.5090709@cfit.ie>
To: "wai-liaison@w3.org" <wai-liaison@w3.org>, Al Gilman <Alfred.S.Gilman@IEEE.org>, Judy Brewer <jbrewer@w3.org>, Michael Cooper <cooper@w3.org>
Cc: W3C WAI-XTECH <wai-xtech@w3.org>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>, Dan Connolly <connolly@w3.org>, "Michael(tm) Smith" <mike@w3.org>, Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>, Chris Wilson <Chris.Wilson@microsoft.com>

The HTML 5 working group is debating the need for a suitable mechanism 
to summarize a data table. Please note, the latest published version of 
HTML 5 has no summary attribute.

However, HTML 5 needs a mechanism to provide a data table with a 
summary. An explicitly associated, programmatic feature is required in 
order to provide an overview of tabular data or a brief explanation of 
how to navigate a data table for people who use assistive technology 
(AT). This is because an AT user needs to easily form a mental image of 
a tables contents in order to better understand its structure, or 
semantic relationships. The mechanism needs to be explicitly associated 
with the table or it becomes more difficult for AT to make that 
association. A summary mechanism may seem irrelevant or redundant to 
those with good eyesight because they have access to content 
relationships at a glance.

However for users with visual impairments, additional semantics are 
often needed as a vital aid to comprehension. These useful semantics, 
such as those supplied by @summary, are often the difference between 
"seeing" or "not seeing" the table as a whole. @summary therefore 
provides a 'quick scan' feature for non-sighted users that requires no 
complex user interaction beyond giving the table element focus.

The @summary is well supported by current AT and its implementation for 
authors is also widely documented.

The issue is detailed at:

In order for this debate to reach a satisfactory resolution, review and 
advice from the PFWG and WAI on the potential accessibility impact of 
not providing an explicit mechanism to summarize a table in HTML 5 would 
be appreciated as well as helping to get clarification from the HTML 5 
WG as to why the current @summary attribute was not included in the new 
specification in light of its benefits.

Thank you.

Best Regards,

Joshue O Connor
Gregory J. Rosmaita
Steve Faulkner
Laura L. Carlson

HTML WG Members
Received on Thursday, 26 June 2008 14:33:53 UTC

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