Gday all,

We're all agreed that tables should only be used for tabular data, and should be marked up properly for accessibility.

*WCAG 1.0 and 2.0 links about table accessibility and specific markup*

WCAG 1.0 Checkpoint 5.2 says "For data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers, use markup to associate data cells and header cells. [Priority 1]"

And in a working draft for WCAG 2.0, HTML Techniques for WCAG 2.0*, Section 7.5, Identifying groups of rows: Use thead to group repeated table headers, tfoot for repeated table footers, and tbody for other groups of rows. (optional)

Section 7.6 Identifying groups of columns: Use the colgroup and col elements to group columns. (optional)

Noting, that both are optional, under WCAG 2.0 (working draft).

*XHTML Basic 1.1*
Now that there are more and more handheld devices being used to access the web, I have been thinking that some websites might benefit from moving to a different markup: XHTML Basic 1.1, particularly if the majority of their user-base are on handheld devices. This way they can serve up something the majority of their audience can use and also allow access through a desk- or lap-top device.

XHTML Basic 1.1 does not include thead, tbody and tfoot, along with col and colgroup, which is mentioned under WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0 for acessible complex data tables.

Can a complex table be accessible without these elements, or do we, as developers, accept the loss of accessibility (both on a practical and compliance level) on data tables with the advent of the mobile web**?

As much as I might like to support the argument that complex tables should never appear on mobiles, I'm not sure it's realistic. There may be a time when a complex table in XHTML Basic 1.1 is served up to both handheld, and desk- and lap- top devices. In that event, what can the developer do?


* Wow, that's a working draft from 2003, SIX years ago. Can that be true?

** Not my preferred option.

Is this too complex for a Monday morning?

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