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RE: [#293] Summary for tables

From: John M Slatin <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu>
Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2003 16:38:39 -0500
Message-ID: <B3DC65CD2AA7EF449E554548C6FE1111135656@MAIL01.austin.utexas.edu>
To: "Michael Cooper" <michaelc@watchfire.com>, "WAI GL (E-mail)" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

I propose the following as an alternative to Michael's proposal:

1. All <table> elements must have a valid summary attribute.
2. Tables used for layout only should have a null summary (summar="").  
3. Data tables should have a summary attribute that provides meaningful
information about the table.  The summary attribute may be empty when
information that blind users need to negotiate the table exists in
onscreen text, for example in a <caption> element or a brief informative

1. Simplicity: it is easier for developers to remember that they have to
provide a summary attribute if they have to do it for every table.
(Authoring tools can eventually be considerable help here...)

2. Consistency: as I've said previously, I think of the summary as "alt
text for tables."  Since HTML requires an alt attribute for every <img>
element, consistency would require a summary attribute for every <table>
element.  Screen readers have already begun to support the null summary.

3. Testability.  If the summary is a required attribute, testing tools
can easily be set to look for it; empty summary attributes for tables
that otherwise satisfy the tool's heuristics for identifying data tables
could then be flagged for user check, etc.


John Slatin, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Technology & Learning
University of Texas at Austin
FAC 248C
1 University Station G9600
Austin, TX 78712
ph 512-495-4288, f 512-495-4524
email jslatin@mail.utexas.edu
web http://www.ital.utexas.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Cooper [mailto:michaelc@watchfire.com] 
Sent: Friday, June 06, 2003 1:06 pm
To: WAI GL (E-mail)
Subject: [#293] Summary for tables

The old summary bugaboo. We need to resolve this in order to close the
table discussions. 

What should requirements be for "summary" attribute on data and layout
tables? Possible requirements are don't provide, provide null, provide a
genuine summary, or do whatever seems best for the situation. 

As a starting proposal I suggest that layout tables be required to have
no summary, and data tables be required to have a non-null summary. This
is by no means generally accepted and needs discussion.


Michael Cooper
Accessibility Project Manager
1 Hines Rd
Kanata, ON  K2K 3C7
+1 613 599 3888 x4019
Received on Friday, 6 June 2003 17:38:40 UTC

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