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RE: How Much Of A Problem Are Tables Used for Design?

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 02:13:42 -0500
Message-Id: <4.1.19991117152057.009c5100@pop3.concentric.net>
Message-Id: <4.1.19991117152057.009c5100@pop3.concentric.net>
Message-Id: <4.1.19991117152057.009c5100@pop3.concentric.net>
Message-Id: <4.1.19991117152057.009c5100@pop3.concentric.net>
To: "webmaster@dors.sailorsite.net" <webmaster@dors.sailorsite.net>
Cc: WAI Interest Group Emailing List <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
aloha, bruce!

to address some of your comments upon my comments...

1) you observed:
  Yep, it is not fair that blind/vi users have to buy expensive screen 
  readers/magnification.  I also agree that issues of economic disadvantage 
  ARE appropriate for discussion list.  But we can't do much at all about how 
  expensive speech synthesis is.  It's not fair that some people are blind.

there are several things that could potentially be done to lower the cost of
speech synthesis, but i think that that topic would be better addressed on some
of the more technically oriented blindness-related lists, an index of which can
be found at:
in particular, i'd recommend BLIND-DEV, a list dedicated to the development of
hardware and software for the blind/VI, more info about which can be found at:
or a brand new list, called SYNTHLIST, dedicated to the discussion of
text-to-speech synthesizers of every type and description, more information
about which can be found at:
2) as regards the internationalization issues that i raised, in particular the
lag time that it takes between the introduction of a feature into the U.S.
English version of an application and international versions, you observed:

Well, its been over a year now since most screen readers learned to deal  with
tables used for layout.

yes, but how many of those screen readers currently have that functionality
built into their non-English versions?  this is currently a topic of discussion
and research being conducted by the Education and Outreach Working Group of the
WAI -- consult, for example, the minutes of the last EO teleconference, which
are available at:
in particular the section on "Outreach Updates", accessible using the following

3) as for the issue of antiquated technology and shell accounts with outdated
versions of Lynx, you observed:

Lynx (even a few revs. back) deals very well with tables (and frames).  (Better
even than many current browser/screen reader combinations.)  If  the version of
Lynx native to a persons shell account does not cut it,  there are many free
current versions available by free with telnet.

agreed, and i maintain a list of publicly accessible Lynxes at:
but there are limitations on the functionality of Lynx when you telnet to a
current version (you may not be able to save or download files, you are unable
to tweak the lynx.cfg file, access to certain sites may be disabled, etc.)

i agree, as well, that use of Bill Schiavo's Blynx386 distribution, Rene
Ludwig's Lynx_Kit, and the Blynx32 distributions (all of which can be
downloaded using links contained in the last-listed URI) alleviate a lot of the
problems i detailed, but it takes a certain level of sophistication to install
and configure them -- especially the DOS/386 versions, which require the
setting up of DOS PPP driver, as well as news and mail clients...

4) you also observed, quote:
  Hardware speech synthesizers are still expensive, but recycled units can be 
  found if one looks hard enough.  The Disk Operating System is free or very 
  inexpensive (if you can even find it for sale) and the LATEST release of 
  JAWS for DOS is FREE!  One can find 386 computers for free too.  There is 
  plenty of good freeware, including the DOS version of Lynx.  Now, people 
  who have the skills to put all this together into a workable system are 
  rare.  Let me make it clear that I don't believe that just because someone 
  is poor and/or disabled they deserve a second (or third) rate computer. 
  But I do want to make the point that lack of money is not (strictly 
  speaking) a barrier to web access.  (It is a barrier to fun, fast, 
  multimedia, modern access to the Internet, but that is a different 

and how is one supposed to know all of this information which you and i know
because we are already online?  not everyone is online, not everyone can get
online, not everyone has the time or patience to put up with the crap that
often makes me think that the real expansion of the acronym WWW is "World Wide
Waste'o'Time", and not everybody knows somebody who is online...  and for those
that don't what's needed is a cadre of volunteers who would configure their
DOS-based systems so that they can get online and use Lynx386...  if you or
anyone else would like to volunteer, let me know -- i've been trying to
organize something along those lines since '95, the year i first got online,
after 3 years of frustration and hearing "i don't know why it doesn't work --
must be all that funky software you're running"...

and what about those persons still using 286 and earlier iterations of the PC? 
there are a hell of a lot more of them than most of the subscribers to this
list seem to want to believe...  as a leader of a Visually Impaired Computer
Users' Group, i field innumerable requests for assistance every week, and there
are a hell of a lot of users out there who would kill for a 386 with a math
coprocessor (which, incidentally, is needed to run Lynx386 and the utilities
bundled in Rene's Lynx_Kit)

how is a blind individual (or anyone else with a disability that precludes
access to traditional media) supposed to learn of these developments?  i went
blind at the age of 20, but it wasn't until five or six years after i became
blind that i was first exposed to the technologies to which i am now
umbillically connected...

to put it plainly, bruce, it ain't as easy as you make it sound...

5) you also observed

  Given these two reasonable alternatives 
  (low-cost-but-old, or public accommodation) I have a hard time with either 
  plan that we (1) give away modern computers to everyone; or (2) dumb-down 
  everything to the lowest common denominator (html 2.0)!

who asked for dumbing down?  who asked for a free bleeding edge system?  not i,
nor anyone else who's yet participated in this thread...  

6) you also commented, upon my ramblings on interoperability and my contention
that using tables for layout is just plain wrong:

  It IS wrong, but this is only a Priority 3 impediment.  As people have 
  repeatedly pointed out, the positioning functions (and other features) of 
  Style Sheets is STILL not supported by Netscape Navigator 4.7!  Until CSS 
  is widely supported, authors have little PRACTICAL choice but to continue 
  to use tables for layout.  So lets function on the Priority 1 and 2 goals 
  of urging authors to use headers and summaries and make sure the table is 
  intelligible when decolumnized.

there are several things in WCAG that were accorded a priority 3 that should
have been accorded a much higher priority -- this is one of them -- a few

but to return to the point, stating quote let's table discussion on the use of
tables for layout because Navigator doesn't support them unquote is akin to
having said in the aftermath of Brown versus Board of Education quote let's not
worry about desegregating our schools until all of the other states (not to
mention the District of Columbia) desegregate theirs unquote

why shouldn't Netscape be called on the carpet and read the riot act for
failing to fully implement CSS?  why shouldn't other browser manufacturers also
be similarly harangued until they fully implement CSS and provide for the
exposition and rendering of the accessibility features that were built into

in any event, if browser manufacturers do want to comply with the User Agent
Guidelines, even if only to get an edge in federal purchasing or to stick a
compliance claim on their product, the easiest way to get the biggest bang for
their developers' buck will be to implement CSS, as robust support for CSS will
go a long way towards satisfying a great many of the UAGL's checkpoints

He that lives on Hope, dies farting
     -- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1763
Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
   WebMaster and Minister of Propaganda, VICUG NYC
Received on Thursday, 18 November 1999 02:10:07 UTC

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