508 and Table Behavior
If a table exists below on a web page, how should the table be "read" using applications such as JAWS or IBM Home Page reader?
Name Phone Number
Bob Smith 555-555-5555
John Doe 111-111-1111
Should it read something like:
Column Header Name
Column Header Phone Number
Name Bob Smith
Phone Number 555-555-5555
Name John Doe
Phone Number 111-111-1111
Re: 508 and Table Behavior
In general, it depends upon how the table is structured and with which tags. If cells are related to headers, for example, that gives the readers a basis for which to associate the cells. But even with this, different readers do things differently. Remember that if you use the <th> element, you should use the "abbr" (abbreviation) attribute. A screen-reader will be able to speak the header identified with each cell if the ID and header (or scope) attributes are used. If you do not use the "abbr" attribute, the entire header will be spoken for its associated data values. For example, say you have this:
<th id="t3" abbr="Type">Content Here</th>
would cause most screen readers to say "Type" and the cell value instead of saying "Content" and the cell value. The point is that screen readers tend to read tables as logically linearized assuming that valid tags are used.
You might want to check out this link. (That is a reference link within the page.) That will give a general idea of how W3C and Section 508 are relating the creation of tables. If you are using CSS1 or CSS2 (particularly for aural style sheets), check out this link.
[This message has been edited by JeffNyman (edited 07-31-2002).]