Steve Green wrote:
I am tempted to say that this is a moot point. In my experience complex data
tables are inaccessible to screen reader users because they have great
difficulty forming a mental model of them. Marking them up perfectly
semantically doesn't help.

If you use 'normal' means of navigating, the table cell contents are read
sequentially. Each cell is usually understandable but you get no sense of
the structure and relationships with the column and row headings.

If you use the table navigation commands, the column and/or row headers are
read in addition to the cell contents. This provides structural information
but the user has to mentally separate the header and cell data before adding
them to their mental model. This is difficult enough with simple tables but
I don't recall even highly proficient screen reader users successfully
navigating complex tables during user testing.

What I can't say is whether any other user group derives any benefit from
the correct semantic markup of tables. Off the top of my head I can't think
of any. I also cannot think of any applications (e.g. search engines, news
scrapers etc) that programmatically access websites that would benefit from
this either.

Thanks for that Steve! :)

Then would the answer, perhaps, be to give a small succinct paragraph about the tabular data, with the most important points (if they exist), and perhaps a link to contact details if the user wanted to know more? And not worry about thead, tfoot, tbody, col, colgroup, etc? Would that be an acceptable accessibility alternative?


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