W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > January 2010

Re: Taking another round at @summary

From: Lachlan Hunt <lachlan.hunt@lachy.id.au>
Date: Wed, 06 Jan 2010 13:15:36 +0100
Message-ID: <4B447EE8.30003@lachy.id.au>
To: Denis Boudreau <dboudreau@accessibiliteweb.com>
Cc: HTML Accessibility Task Force <public-html-a11y@w3.org>, HTML WG Public List <public-html@w3.org>
Denis Boudreau wrote:
> Agreed, @summary, as it is, might not be a perfect solution. But
> removing it altogether from HTML5 is a sure way to add to the
> difficulties users with disabilities already experience when trying
> to access tabular data.

The summary attribute is currently not removed all together.  It's in 
the spec and can be used.  Although it is considered obsolete, it's 
still technically conforming.  (Note that the validator will only issue 
a warning about its use, not flag it as invalid).

> I humbly believe we are missing the broader picture. Look at it from
> a government perspective:
> For instance, here in Quebec (Canada), like most public
> administrations, we are putting together our own adaption of WCAG
> 2.0, an accessibility standard called SGQRI 008. All in all, it's a
> fairly good document that goes farther than most government
> adaptation I've seen to this day. Again, not perfect, but it's got
> teeth nonetheless and it's already done a lot to promote
> accessibility in our local industry.
> In that standard, the use of the @summary is mandatory for complex
> data tables. Mandatory. This standard is not going to change for at
> least another 5 to 7 years. What that means is that every government
> website, intranet, extranet developed by or for the government that
> contains such elements have to have a @summary or else they fail at
> compliance and are subject to reddition (which is not a good thing).

This should be a clear lesson that government policies should avoid 
mandating specific technical solutions to problems, as opposed to simply 
requiring that, for example in this case, complex tables be accompanied 
by some solution that adequately addresses the accessibility issues, 
without specifying what that solution must be in all cases.

Any one of the alternative techniques listed in HTML5 for providing a 
table summary outside of a summary attribute has the potential to be 
equally, if not more effective in some cases, so it should be clear why 
govt. policies creating such lock-in are bad.  Policies like you 
describe simply make the often incorrect assumption that the specified 
technical solution is the most appropriate in all cases, which is almost 
certainly not always going to be the case.  And I don't think we should 
let such clear mistakes in some govt. policies weigh too heavily on the 
technical decisions we make.

Lachlan Hunt - Opera Software
Received on Wednesday, 6 January 2010 12:17:16 UTC

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