WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: Reading tables in JAWS


From: Birkir R. Gunnarsson
Date: Feb 4, 2014 8:01PM

We must remember that the assistive technology software and the end
user is as much a part of accessibility as the webpage authors.
It is up to the assistive technology that targets a certain population
to use technical advances and user testing to find ways to make all
manner of information, including complex tables, intuitive for that
user population.
It is up to the end user and the system around the end user to make
sure he or she receives sufficient training to use that assistive
technology to pick up information, which is the ultimate purpose of
If we do not go by this model, we might as well not bother to mark up
data tables correctly, since no end users understand them anyway.
The alternative would be to expect the webpage or content developer
invent some sort of a workaround that they think would better
communicate the information to users with disability x using assistive
technology application y.
This is an impossible task. After all users with disabilities
understandably do not want to self identify on the web, so creating
content optimized for certain groups of users with assistive
technologies is impossible.

All we can expect the webpage developers to do is to mark up the
content in a standard manner that communicates all the relevant
information and relations of page components to each other to the
assistive technologies.
If users are not taking advantage of accessible markup, it means that
more attention must be given to sufficient training and more
consistent assistive technology support.
I have always felt that sadly this segment of accessibility has often
not received the attention that it deserves.

In a survey that me and my colleague carried out last year, involving
450 screen reader users, over 70% of them claimed to navigate tables
using table navigation commands.
Of course the survey is biased in that only users with the skills to
take an online survey, and the interest to do so, were involved.
Also we cannot verify precisely what they mean by "table navigation keys".

I hope that the advent of the touchscreen interface, with
possibilities of raising certain areas of the screen to form a tactile
pattern is the next step in the evolution of accessible interfaces,
one which may help give better context and spatial understanding for
users who are blind.
Fortunately we live in exciting times when it comes to technology.
All that being said, it is important to make tables accessible to the
extent possible, using standard html and accessibility techniques, and
rely on assistive technologies to interpret them and end users to
understand how to extract the information from them.
Optimizing information for a given assistive technology should only be
the case in extremely rare and specialized circumstances.
Birkir Gunnarsson
Senior Accessibility Consultant | Deque Systems

On 2/4/14, Bryan Garaventa < <EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:
> It depends on the type of content and the interaction model.
> For example, the following table is an interactive ARIA Data Grid
> http://whatsock.com/tsg/Coding%20Arena/ARIA%20Data%20Grids/ARIA%20Data%20Grid%20(Dynamic)/demo.htm
> and is designed to have one tab stop and to allow screen reader access using
> the arrow keys.
> However, the most basic types of table, as seen at
> http://www.freedomscientific.com/Training/Surfs-up/Tables.htm
> require the use of the Virtual Cursor to navigate them effectively.
> Standard table navigation commands have existed for many years now, so it
> really comes down to whether or not the AT user has had introductory
> training on this type of screen reader functionality.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Olaf Drümmer" < <EMAIL REMOVED> >
> To: "WebAIM Discussion List" < <EMAIL REMOVED> >
> Sent: Tuesday, February 04, 2014 3:09 PM
> Subject: Re: [WebAIM] Reading tables in JAWS
>> On 4 Feb 2014, at 23:59, Don Mauck < <EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:
>>> Anyone that just uses the arrow keys or the tab keys will never be able
>>> to successfully use and navigate tables using a screen reader.
>> why is that? Aren't arrow keys a good default method to walk through a
>> table?
>> It would be a matter of setting user preferences to control how much
>> accompanying information - on top of the cell's content - would be
>> presented (like type of cell, applicable header cells, etc.)
>> Olaf
>> >> >> >
> > > >

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