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Re: Discussion: Accessibility Issues Procedure

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Sun, 26 Jul 2009 21:14:49 -0600
Cc: Shelley Powers <shelley.just@gmail.com>, Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>, William Loughborough <wloughborough@gmail.com>, Laura Carlson <laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>, W3C WAI-XTECH <wai-xtech@w3.org>, Ian Jacobs <ij@w3.org>
Message-id: <42C42763-CFCD-4A45-AA7E-9D7E4146C374@apple.com>
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>

On Jul 26, 2009, at 8:52 PM, Ian Hickson wrote:

> On Sun, 26 Jul 2009, Shelley Powers wrote:
>>
>> Ian is fully aware of the issues, reasons, and so on. If he isn't I
>> suggest he spend time searching on @summary in these lists.
>
> Maybe I missed an important e-mail. Could you point me to the e-mail  
> that
> shows the reasoning and data behind the idea that including and  
> continuing
> to encourage authors to use the summary="" attribute would improve  
> overall
> accessibility of the Web beyond the status quo?
>
> The position argued, in detail, with data [1] to support the current  
> text
> in the specification is that encouraging the summary="" attribute to  
> be
> used actually harms the overall accessibility of the Web. To my  
> knowledge,
> nobody has provided a sound counter-argument to this. If I have missed
> such a counter-argument, please send me a link. The e-mail cited above
> includes explicit statements regarding the kind of data and  
> explanations
> that would lead to a substantial change in the document I am editing.
>
> [1] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2009Jul/0148.html

For what it's worth, even though I don't entirely agree with the  
current spec language for summary=""(*), I do agree with Ian on this  
point.

It's been pretty well established that summary="" is often used wrong,  
and there is good reason to believe that pushing authors towards other  
alternatives will give better results. As far as I can tell, no one  
has even tried to make a reasoned case that use of summary="" should  
be encouraged.

Some have cast doubt on the evidence against the effectiveness of  
summary="". But that does not amount to a positive argument for its  
effectiveness, either in absolute terms, or compared to other  
techniques.

Others have argued that summary="" can be used correctly by domain  
experts exercising special care. But that's not really an argument for  
encouraging use of summary="", just an argument that it should be  
conforming to satisfy these expert uses. And indeed it is conforming.  
But discouraged, because it is shown to be dangerous in the hands of  
non-experts. Indeed, even the strongest advocates of summary="" seem  
to concede that it is flawed and would like to seek alternatives,  
although they don't necessarily find the ones now in the spec.

So I think it's fair to say, no one has really made a case for why  
summary="" should be conforming and encouraged, as opposed to  
conforming and discouraged. Can anyone explain the harm if future  
authors mostly describe table structure using <caption> or aria- 
describedby, instead of summary=""?

Regards,
Maciej

(*) -  I think the spec should describe the intended purpose of  
summary="" and explain why it generally shouldn't be used over other  
alternatives, because that would help some authors to make a more  
informed choice, and as far as I can tell would have no significant  
downside. But in my opinion this change would be editorial, not  
substantial, so I'm personally not inclined to take it to the mat.
Received on Monday, 27 July 2009 03:15:47 UTC

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