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

From: Wayne Crotts <wcrotts@arches.uga.edu>
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 11:13:40 -0500
To: "WAI Interest Group Emailing List" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <NDBBLHDAELNNOGHIPNIEIELFCGAA.wcrotts@arches.uga.edu>
Take this anecdotal evidence with a grain of salt, but still it illustrates
Kynn's point that the typical html writer thinks as to using tables for

A month ago, I hosted a workshop on web accessibility at a state level
computer conference.  I was surprised (and alarmed) at the number of people
present that were writing and even implementing web design courses (for
WebCT, other) that had never heard of the accessibility issue.

However, I was pleased  that upon hearing about the issue, that folks were
genuinely concerned and realized that accessibility was important. Many
stayed after the workshop was over to get more information, talk about their
specific circumstances, etc.. . . .

So far so good-- however-- the parts about tables they could not understand.
One, many saw this a needless default standard, considering that using
tables did not mean automatically the page was not accessible.  One can
write accessible linear tables so why would there be concern if used for
layout?  Secondly,  one of them pointed out that style sheets have a similar
compatibility issue as tables.

Fortunately, I didn't throw in any cutting remarks  that this is only a
'decoration' issue. I am sure that in this workshop case that the whole
accessibility issue would have been tossed out of the window, if such
rhetoric would have been used.  In essence, until style sheets are fully
implemented, tables is a reliable way for html writers to control the layout
of their pages.  Demands on html writers are that layout control is to be
expected.  For us to dismiss these demands as non-important because they
don't fit snuggly into our specific needs for accessibility is silly and
arrogant.  This is especially true because we cannot provide an alternative.
Style sheets are coming but have the compatibility issues that tables have
as far as browsers go.  Therefore, we are asking the html writer to give up
a needed function because it 'MAY' be inaccessible.  What a joke.

In essence, they were very convinced and sold on the accessibility idea
except for tables which they felt they had compelling reasons to disagree.

Quite frankly, a 'no tables for layout' proved to be a weak argument. I
don't mean to entice flames here.  I realize that it is much more
complicated to describe how not to use tables than to simply say 'don't use
tables for layout purposes.'  But one can have an accessible page where
tables are used for layout --so why automatically forbid it???

It comes down to what Kynn stated previously -- the typical web writer is
not going to give up using tables for layout, nor can we provide convincing
reasons to do so. Sure we can point to example after example of their
inappropriate use, but those on the other side can demonstrate web sites
using tables for layout that do not obstruct accessibility.

To question if Kynn is on the 'same side' misses the boat.  Kynn was
reporting a reality on a weak point in our argument.  If that makes him not
on the 'same side', well I guess that you should include me as well.


Wayne Crotts
Institute on Human Development and Disability
A University Affiliated Program
The University of Georgia

> -----Original Message-----
> From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org]On
> Behalf Of David Poehlman
> Sent: Thursday, November 18, 1999 7:15 AM
> To: Gregory J. Rosmaita
> Cc: webmaster@dors.sailorsite.net; WAI Interest Group Emailing List
> Subject: Re: How Much Of A Problem Are Tables Used for Design?
> just weighing in here.  we've learned from Gregory and it has been
Received on Thursday, 18 November 1999 12:24:41 UTC

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