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

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Sun, 05 Jul 2009 15:43:26 -0700
Cc: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>, public-html@w3.org
Message-id: <2B861351-42F4-49DE-AD12-27743AAABC6D@apple.com>
To: Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>

On Jul 5, 2009, at 11:24 AM, Sam Ruby wrote:

>> ( ) I support the design of the HTML4 working group.
>>     (Including the summary="" attribute on tables.)
> I don't believe I've heard anybody say that that design is ideal,  
> instead some have expressed the opinion that it it should remain in  
> place until there is something better to replace it.
>> ( ) I support the design currently in Ian's HTML5 proposal.
>>     (Suggesting that tables should be described in captions.)
> There are people who see the same facts as you do and yet come to  
> different conclusions as to whether overloading caption in this way  
> is a  superior design.
>> ( ) I support the design currently in Rob's HTML5 proposal.
>>     (Allowing summary="", but saying it doesn't work.)
> Declaring Rob's approach as a "design" is probably a category  
> error.  If I understand Rob correctly, he simply believes that  
> having a conformance checker flag such markup as invalid is not  
> likely to significantly change authoring behavior.
>> ( ) I have another proposal. Describe it below.

I would personally find any of the first three options acceptable  
(with suitable adjustments for wording). However, I think it would be  
far better to have a conclusive decision on any of these options than  
to continue to leave the issue open.

After the huge volume of discussion on this issue, it seems very  
unlikely to me that we will achieve consensus. So I think the chairs  
should do one of the following soon: (a) outline a concrete process  
for building consensus; (b) hold a vote; or (c) outline another  
process for making a group decision notwithstanding the lack of  

I think this issue being perpetually open is unhealthy for the Working  
Group. My personal preference would probably be something like Rob's  
proposal (describe what summary="" does and say it may not do a good  
job of serving its purpose). But at this point, I'd accept any outcome  
so long as we can move on.

> I don't have another proposal, merely a few observations.
> First, I don't believe that anybody has put forward a design which  
> enjoys consensus that covers the use case of a "holistic overview"  
> which is explicitly intended as a "closed caption for the visual  
> impaired".
> Second, I don't believe that any of the above points of view are  
> invalid, nor do I believe that any one of them enjoys an exclusive  
> right to claim that that it alone is the result of a "data-driven  
> process".

I also have a few observations.

First, Ian has often been criticized for acting unilaterally and  
ignoring the input of some or all of the Working Group. In this case  
he is directly asking the chairs to facilitate making a clear Working  
Group decision. I think the chairs owe it to him to do so. I would  
also like to see what happens if the Working Group makes a decision  
about the content of the spec that Ian personally disagrees with.

Second, since the current joint chairmanship took office, I don't  
think we've made any decisions of the Working Group on issues where  
there was underlying disagreement. I'm starting to wonder how we are  
going to resolve contentious issues in time for our Last Call target  
date, if so far we haven't exercised the process for doing so at all,  
and are continuing to kick the can down the road on issues that are  
over a year old.

> Third, I think the positions are mostly known at this point, and the  
> impact to the document for any of the above can be estimated,  
> planned, and accounted for.  I personally think that ARIA is of a  
> higher priority at this time, and would hope that work could begin  
> and proceed in parallel while this group is waiting for the ARIA  
> group to respond to last call feedback.

Failing to make a decision here has an impact beyond the potential  
spec text changes. It leads to mailing list disputes and fosters lack  
of collegiality. It makes the Working Group appear weak and  
ineffectual, since we can't make a decision on even low priority  
issues that engender disagreement, let alone difficult high priority  

Received on Sunday, 5 July 2009 22:44:08 UTC

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