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

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 14:24:26 -0500
Message-Id: <4.1.19991116142417.00a42c80@pop3.concentric.net>
To: WAI Interest Group Emailing List <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Cc: User Agent Guidelines Emailing List <w3c-wai-ua@w3.org>
aloha, kelly!

whilst i agree that the abuse of tables for layout purposes has been mitigated
by advances in user agent and adaptive technologies, i would caution against
the quote the tools at my disposal allow me to decolumnize tables that are used
for layout, so how big an accessibility issue is the use of tables for layout
unquote train of thought...


1. expense:  the tools you listed all represent a significant investment on the
part of individuals who belong to a demographic category (those with less than
20/200 vision) which is plagued by an unemployment rate (in the U.S.) of at
least seventy percent (the 70% figure i cited is derived from research
performed by the American Foundation for the Blind)

adding this extra expense to what is already (for most) the considerable
investment that is required to purchase a computer upon which the software you
listed will run efficiently and as intended, constitutes -- at least in my mind
-- an undue burden on the blind/VI user...

2. internationalization:  it often takes 6 months to well over a year for
features that are built into the English version of adaptive software to be
incorporated into non-English versions of software...  therefore, just because
you and i (who happen, by accident of birth, to reside in the U.S.A.) have
access to the cutting edge in both adaptive and mainstream applications, does
not mean that a critical mass of other blind users have access to the same
advances...  just a single (and well documented) case-in-point will suffice to
illustrate this point...  when Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) was first
released, applying it to a system which was running in non-U.S. English mode
caused the dialogs and messages generated by the system to be output in U.S.

3. mode of internet access: there are still a lot of cybernauts who are using
antiquated technology with which to access web-based content...  there are
myriad reasons for limitations upon an individuals ability (and willingness) to
switch his or her mode of access, including:

A. steep learning curvesf 

B. financial limitations

B1) shell access, where available, is often far cheaper than a POP/PPP account,
and is a more cost efficient means of obtaining web-based content when one is
accessing the internet over a phone line for which the user is being charged
per minute...  and, it is an unfortunate fact of life that most of the users
who still use shell accounts are saddled with an older version of Lynx or the
W3 browser, which may impose severe limitations upon the content available to
that user...

B2) many users with disabilities -- in particular the blind -- may not have
access to computer systems that are capable of running the type of software
necessary to unravel tables that have been used for layout purposes -- a
significant number of blind users are using discarded or cast-off equipment
that is incapable of running much (if not all) of the software you cited

4) interoperability -- the use of tables for layout is just plain wrong if you
want your pages to be as universally accessible as possible...  tables are
intended for the display of tabular data, not for imposing the desktop
publishing paradigm upon the web, even though that is what they are most
commonly used to do...  therefore, it is imperative that authoring tools
encourage the use of stylesheets to control layout, and that authoring tool
developers and the users of authoring tools place pressure upon UA
manufacturers to support stylesheets...

i could go on ad nauseam, but i think that the reasons enumerated above suffice
to illustrate that, despite recent advances in technology, the use of tables
for layout is definitely still a barrier to accessibility...


At 10:11 AM 11/16/99 -0800, Kelly Ford wrote:
>There has been a great deal of discussion about the use of tables and the
>problems they cause for people who are blind when used for design purposes.
> I'm speaking strictly here of tables used for design, not to contain
>tabular data.
>I'm wondering how much of a problem such pages pose for folks who are
>blind?  The browsing combinations I use all decolumnize these types of
>pages in some fashion.  These include Lynx, Home Page Reader, Internet
>Explorer with either JFW 3.31 or Window-Eyes 3.1.

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 Tuesday, 16 November 1999 14:18:00 UTC

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