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

From: Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>
Date: Sun, 05 Jul 2009 20:38:09 -0400
Message-ID: <4A514771.6040708@intertwingly.net>
To: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
CC: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>, public-html@w3.org
Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
> 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 consensus.

My preference is to hold a vote on complete drafts.  My understanding is 
  that Rob is working on one, but it clearly is not in a state where a 
vote can be held on it.

Failing that, if there is consensus that a vote should be held and a 
consensus on what that vote should be, a vote will be held.  The first 
step is to decide what exactly we are voting on and to provide a summary 
  of the various positions.  Joshue O Connor is working on doing exactly 

I encourage everybody to review the wiki page[1] and/or contribute to 
action 128.

> 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.

The chairs are working from the issues list.  I asked Ian to review the 
wiki page and action 128.  Ian is welcome to participate in the calls 
and comment on the issues themselves.  If he choses not to do so, and 
asks questions that can readily be answered by referring to this list, I 
  will simply continue to refer him (and others) back to this information.

> 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.

Ian recently posted a list of items that he has incorporated into the 
document that he personally disagrees with[2].

There clearly are other items that Ian disagrees with that he is 
unwilling to update the document to include.  For such items, I am 
encouraging others to produce a concrete proposal, in the form of camera 
  ready spec text, ideally (but not necessarily) in the form of an 
integrated draft.  I have stated this approach numerous times, and Mike 
Smith has indicated that he supports this approach.[3]

At least one person (rsayre) has indicated that he intends to do exactly 
  that.  If there are multiple drafts when it comes time for last call, 
the one with the most consensus will be the one that proceeds forward. 
  If nobody produces drafts except Ian, then Ian's will be the one that 
proceeds forward.

>> 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 issues.

I see little purpose at this point to people posting rehashes and 
summaries of previously stated positions to this list.  Those that feel 
  that this particular item needs to be expedited at this time are 
encouraged to produce drafts and/or attend the weekly call where high 
bandwidth conversations can be held.

Ultimately, however, what will proceed to Last Call is things for which 
somebody has convinced some editor to actually write down and include in 
their draft.

More background at [4], [5] and [6].

> Regards,
> Maciej

- Sam Ruby

[1] http://esw.w3.org/topic/HTML/SummaryForTABLE
[2] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2009Jun/0714.html
[3] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-archive/2009Jun/0135.html
[4] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2009May/0200.html
[5] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-archive/2009Jun/0128.html
[6] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-archive/2009Jun/0134.html
Received on Monday, 6 July 2009 00:38:51 UTC

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