Re: retention of summary attribute for TABLE element

I disagree there's a parallel between images and tables. Images are
completely inaccessible (why @alt is so important) without vision. The
same is not true with tables. I do agree it's vital we don't drop
accessibility features!

That said, I'd like to see "summary" kept for times when it is needed.
I do not use summary much as I find it inaccessible to a wider
audience. Generally if a table is complex enough to require a
description to understand it, then that description should be
available to everyone (not only screen readers). This has always
seemed like a flaw in @summary to me and I much prefer to proposed
<summary> element in XHTML2 [1]. I'd like to see this considered for

Perhaps as a backwards compatibility step UAs could accept either
@summary or <summary>, whilst the spec can encourage the use of the
element in place of the attribute.


On 6/11/07, Gregory J. Rosmaita <> wrote:
> listed in the WHAT WG's Differences from HTML4 wiki page [note 1],
> under the heading Dropped Attributes, the attribute summary is
> listed as dropped from the list of attributes defined for the TABLE
> element. [note 2]
> what justified this decision?  a summary makes it possible for someone
> processing the TABLE non-visually or in small highly magnified chunks
> to get an over-view of the TABLE, for what is a TABLE, other than a
> visual means of displaying related data sets, and what the sighted
> user sees at a glance -- the spatial relationships between cells,
> rows, and column -- but, in the absence of a summary, the aural user
> must investigate the table carefully and fully, just in order to
> ascertain whether or not it is the correct table, how many rows by how
> many columns to expect, etc.
> ---------------------
> Retention Argument 1:
> ---------------------
> The summary attribute is essential to a non-visual end user who is
> interpreting the visual canvas with an aural renderer.  It is to the
> non-visual or low vision user what the gestalt view is to a sighted
> user who is capable of making the correct spatial associations and an
> instant -- familiarity with the layout and flow of the TABLE, which is
> constantly reinforced by visually interacting with the TABLE, which is
> impossible for speech-output or refreshable braille display to convey to
> its user without entering and inspecting every TABLE, whether or not that
> TABLE contains the information for which they are seeking.  without a
> summary, every TABLE will entail an extensive amount of work on the end
> user's part because they are:
> 1) unaware of the table's layout, orientation, flow, content,
>    relevance and validity;
> 2) unaware of the relationships conveyed by the TABLE, for table-ized
>    data (as well as layout tables) have meaning only insofar as one
>    can visually and cognatively correctly correlate column and/or row
>    headers, even if they are incorrectly marked up (for example,
>    indicated by a font-weight change or a fore-ground or background
>    color change only)
> ---------------------
> Retention Argument 2:
> ---------------------
> Summary is to the visual construct TABLE as "alt" is to IMG, and title
> and description are to SVG -- necessary and required markup, so as to
> indicate to the non-visual user what is subconsciously absorbed by the
> majority of users, for whom it is merely a question of the ability to
> associate data with row and column headers;
> Notes:
> [1]
> [2] the WHAT WG's TABLE model:
> quote
> Content model:
>    In this order: optionally a caption element, followed by
>    either zero or more colgroup elements, followed optionally
>    by a thead element, followed optionally by a tfoot element,
>    followed by either zero or more tbody elements or one or
>    more tr elements, followed optionally by a tfoot element
>    (but there can only be one tfoot element child in total).
> unquote
> ----------------------------------------------------------------
> CONSERVATIVE, n.  A statesman who is enamored of existing evils,
> as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them
> with others.         -- Ambrose Bierce, _The Devil's Dictionary_
> ----------------------------------------------------------------
>              Gregory J. Rosmaita,
>   Camera Obscura:
> ----------------------------------------------------------------

Received on Monday, 11 June 2007 09:59:16 UTC