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Re: Screen readers and simple data tables

From: Paul Bohman <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu>
Date: Thu, 6 Apr 2000 14:23:38 -0600
Message-ID: <01f801bfa005$fdccc7c0$20117b81@usu.edu>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
>First, what version of JFW do you have?

I have version 3.5

>table support for web pages is virtually non-existent, (except for
Reformat, Insert+f5 - have you tried this?.)

I'm not sure how to do this. When I tried insert + f5 it said that the
function was not available in virtual PC mode, and I'm not sure how to
change the mode.

>Did you try viewing the table in Lynx, reading the Lynx transformed table
with JFW?

Lynx reads it basically the same way: it reads across each row before
proceeding to the second row. Usually this is fine, but in the case of data
tables, where the header cells tell you what's in each column, there needs
to be a way to distinguish between individual cells, and to associate them
with their headers. Maybe there is a way to do this which I am unaware of.
Is there a way to tell the screen reader to repeat the column and/or row
headers with each cell?

The table that I created is not *inaccessible* really. I can still guess at
its structure. But the fact that I have to guess makes it less desirable.

I'm going to venture into theoretical territory and suggest one way that a
screen reader might render this table.

<begin example>

Row 1:
Header Column 1: C.P.D. News
Header Column 2: Parent News
Header Column 3: Enables
Header Column 4: Power or Independence

Row 2:
Column 1 under C.P.D. News: Current Issue, All Issues
Column 2 under Parent News: Current Issue, All Issues
Column 3 under Enables: Current Issue, All Issues
Column 4 under Power or Independence: Current Issue, All Issues

<end example>

In fact, it may be totally unnecessary to have the column headers read
alone. It may be sufficient to start reading with row 2, as long as the
reader says specifies the column header as it reads each cell.

Anyway, these are a few thoughts.


Steve McCaffrey
Senior Programmer/Analyst
Information Technology Services
New York State Department of Education
New York State Workgroup on Accessibility to Information Technology
Web Design Subcommittee

>>> "Paul Bohman" <paulb@cpd2.usu.edu> 04/06/00 03:02PM >>>
I have a question about tables for those who use screen readers. Although,
for the most part, tables seem to be accessible with current screen reader
technology, there are definitely times when this is not the case. Even
simple data tables can be problematic due to the way which screen readers
read them.

For example, I have a page which has a simple table with four columns and
two rows. The first row consists of the headers and the second row consists
of the data. In this case, the data consists of links to issues of
newsletters. The column headers are the titles of the newsletters, and the
cells beneath them have links to the "current issue" and to "all issues".

The problem is that neither of the screen readers that I tested it on (JAWS
and Home Page Reader) gave enough information about the table to easily
decipher its structure. Even though JAWS told me that I was entering a table
with four columns and two rows, it did not tell me where one column started
or ended. Nor did it tell me where the first row ended and the second row

I was frustrated. In my mind, there is no reason why the screen reader
wouldn't be able to give me this information. All of the information is
already in the code itself. JAWS knows where each row and column begin and
end. It just doesn't tell me what it knows.

As it stands right now, the simple table that I created is reduced to a
guessing game for those using screen readers. They have to try to figure out
what row and what column they are in. I see this as a problem with the
screen readers, rather than with the coding itself. I understand that I may
have to create a workaround. I am willing to do that, but I wanted to get
some feedback from those on the list who use screen readers to see what they

By the way, the table in question is found on the following page:
http://www.cpd.usu.edu/newsletters. To get to the table quickly, click on
the first link, which allows you to skip past the main navigational menu.

Paul Bohman
Received on Thursday, 6 April 2000 16:24:13 UTC

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