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Re: What motivates you? and accessibility checks


From: Paul Bohman
Date: Mar 8, 2000 2:24PM

snip> It is still recommended by standards though that tables not be used
formatting. <end snip>
The actual guideline says this: "5.3 Do not use tables for layout unless the
table makes sense when linearized."
For the most part, what this means is that the table needs to make sense if
you read the table one cell at a time starting with the top left cell and
proceeding across the row until the end, then going to row two and reading
each cell. However, some of the older screen readers were incapable of
reading tables correctly. They would read from left to right, ignoring the
fact the the content was in separate cells. It would be like putting a piece
of paper on the screen and reading each line all the way across the screen,
then moving the paper down and reading the next line. This renders the
content in an unintelligible fashion. For the most part, though, current
technologies (even screen readers) have no trouble reading tables. Where you
can get into trouble is if you have really complex table structures with
cells that span columns in unusual ways, etc. Nested tables (tables inside
of tables) are not always bad, but you have to be careful with them too.
Screen readers will usually read the entire contents of a cell (including
any nested tables) before moving on to the next cell. If this is how you
want your content to be read, then you're probably ok.
Still, things would be much better if current browsers supported style sheet
positioning better. Internet Explorer does quite a nice job. Netscape
doesn't. In fact, pages become more INaccessable in Netscape when style
sheet positioning is used because you can't use the tab key to navigate the
page anymore. In my opinion this is a fatal flaw which I cannot ignore, so I
do not yet use style sheet positioning. I do use tables, but only because I
don't think there is a viable alternative at this point, due to lack of
browser support. I look forward to the day when I can use them "without
When I use tables for layout, I give the table a title and a summary. The
title will show up as a visible "tooltip" when the mouse runs over the
table. In the table SUMMARY I simply say "table used for layout" or
something similar. The TITLE might say something like "Main content of page"
or "navigation links" or similar. The summary attribute remains invisible.
Here is some sample code:
<table title="Main Navigation Menu" summary="Table used for layout"