3 replies [Last post]
Tony
Tony's picture
Offline
Moderator
Brisbane
Last seen: 2 days 18 hours ago
Brisbane
Timezone: GMT+10
Joined: 2003-03-12
Posts: 5342
Points: 2963

Roger Hudson and Russ Weakley have been conducting some tests into the difference between "id" and "headers" vs "scope" - to see which of these options was more widely supported in assistive devices.

The test page was set up here: http://www.usability.com.au/resources/tabletest.cfm

A range of blind users and accessibility experts were asked to take part in the testing including Andrew Downie, Roger Johansson, Patrick Lauke, Bruce Maguire and David Woodbridge.

The initial results have been published as part of a larger article - Accessible Data Tables

" At this stage, it appears that id and headers are the most effective way to make complex data tables accessible. Although id and headers are slightly more difficult to code than scope, the apparent poor screen reader support for scope means that this is probably not an effective accessibility option."

http://www.usability.com.au/resources/tables.cfm

gleddy
gleddy's picture
Offline
Leader
sydney, australia
Last seen: 11 years 30 weeks ago
sydney, australia
Timezone: GMT+10
Joined: 2004-09-21
Posts: 596
Points: 0

Accessible Data Tables

I saw Roger present this Accessible Complex Data Tables research at a pre-Web Essentials meeting here in Sydney.

I must say though, after his detailed analysis on the subject I must admit that mixing tables and accessability seems a bit daunting. By the end of the presentation his code was complex, including using ids and headers for every data cell.

I concluded the best solution is to try and not use complex tables at all and just use multiple tables if you can get away with it. Easier for screen readers and coders.

I wonder though, will tables ever be phased out for this reason and replaced with some kind of new css-based table structure? I know tables are still legit when used for data, but at this scale it still just seemed very hack'ish. We should be able to introduce accessability with the existing markup, rather than id'ing everything.

roytheboy
roytheboy's picture
Offline
Guru
North Wales, UK
Last seen: 6 years 19 weeks ago
North Wales, UK
Timezone: GMT+1
Joined: 2004-09-18
Posts: 2233
Points: 41

Accessible Data Tables

I'm all for doing one's best for accessibility and I do indeed do my best, but I can't help feeling that sometimes we expect too much of ourselves in this respect. Shoot me down if you must, but I think that this sort of data should either be summarised in text for people with screen readers, or left in tabular form and to he11 with it. If a blind person REALLY needs to interpret complex data then can we not assume that they might be able to ask a sighted person to interpret it for them on the odd occasion that the issue arises?

Life's a b*tch and then you die!

larmyia
Offline
Elder
London
Last seen: 11 years 12 weeks ago
London
Timezone: GMT+1
Joined: 2005-01-25
Posts: 1060
Points: 0

Accessible Data Tables

Roy, I like the idea of a textual description for a table. although I take your point that should the need arise a blind person could consult a sighted one, at least if you offer the option of a textual description you are offering an alternative if they need the information immediately or if they choose not to ask a sighted person.

I guess it all comes back to the premise that we aren't all equal and is often impossible to achieve. at the end of the day, an "alt" isn't really as good as a picture (unless it's a thousand words I guess), but it's the best we can (currently) do under the circumstances we're presented with.

a lot of other thoughts coming to my mind, but really veering from Tony's original post.

larmyia