WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: Using tables for layout


From: Paul Bohman
Date: Feb 23, 2004 12:09PM

Of course documents should be readable without style sheets enabled.
This does not mean that style sheets are bad though. Quite the contrary.
When you use (X)HTML and style sheets properly, you can still read the
content with or without styles enabled.

In the case of WebAIM.org, for example, the top menu is an ordered list.
To the visual user, with styles enabled, this menu looks like tabs that
go across the page horizontally. You can't tell that this is a list.
When you turn the styles off, though, the fact that this is a list in
the code becomes immediately obvious.

The reason for marking up our tabs like this is that visual users see
the tabs and in their minds they group these items as a list of main
menu options. They may not think that they are organizing them in a
bulleted or numbered list per se, but that's essentially what's
happening. They see a group of 5 tabs and they immediately realize that
this is a menu list of five items.

By using markup that makes this a true list, this allows screen reader
users to group the menu items in a list just like visual users do.

CSS allows you to display lists visually in ways that can be manipulated
any way you like. In the case of WebAIM, we wanted to make our list look
like graphical tabs, and we wanted them to display horizontally across
the top of the page.

See http://www.webaim.org/techniques/articles/boring for a brief writeup
about a few CSS designs, including the WebAIM site.

Savin, Jill wrote:

> <snip> "If you would normally use a nested
> table in the left cell to create a "list" of links for navigation purposes,
> drop the nested table and use an unordered list with styles instead.
> Ultimately, you may end up with only one two celled table as the only table
> on a page (for layout purposes) with the rest of the content arranged using
> CSS."
> But isnt one of the basic rules that web pages have to be readable without
> using CSS? I have a paper with this statement"
> "Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an
> associated style sheet."
> Or when they say 'documents', do they mean like if you added a word document
> to the web page?
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Paul Ryan Bohman
Web Accessibility Specialist/Project Coordinator
WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind)
Center for Persons with Disabilities
Utah State University

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