Hi Joyce –


Thanks – I will definitely check it out.  When the output is interpreted by a screen reader, does it report the class attribute or in some other way reflect the nesting of the component levels?  Or does it just treat that third column as undifferentiated, i.e. all at the same “level”?




From: Encoded Archival Description List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Joyce Chapman
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 3:03 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: finding aid HTML and accessibility


Hi Michelle,


In 2009 I wrote a stylesheet like your first solution, partially in the hope that people would use it to alleviate this problem -- it's a good solution to getting rid of using the table to force indentation. It's part of the EADRT hosted stylesheets, called "dsc-3-column-table: three column table for DSC section" (http://saa-ead-roundtable.github.io/ead-stylesheets/). The stylesheet uses the first two columns to output container values (box 1, folder 1), and all descriptive info for nested components is output together in the third column. The layout of nested component levels is controlled through classes provided in an accompanying CSS stylesheet. It assumes that your institution uses two columns for container values, but you could easily modify it to be a two-column layout for single containers. The CSS does not include any styling other than setting up the classes that will control the display (such as indentation) for the different component levels' table cells.




On Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 12:51 PM, Michele R Combs <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Hello, collective wisdom --

I'm wondering what approaches people have taken to encoding finding aids for browser display in a manner that is useful to folks who access web pages through non-visual means (e.g., a screen reader).  I know that HTML tables (a) aren't supposed to be used for layout and (b) can pose problems for people using alternate means to "read" web pages, and the hierarchical nature of finding aid descriptions poses a sort of extra level of problem.

Given this sort of data:

Box     Folder  Contents
1       1               Awards
1       2               Citations
2       1                       Family
2       2                       Friends
2       3                       Travel
2       4               Scrapbooks

how does one create HTML that is both good HTML and non-visually accessible/meaningful?

Here are the approaches I've thought of so far:

FIRST:  One could encode the entire box/folder listing as a simple 3-column table, with the columns being "box" "folder" and "contents." I could then assign a @class attribute to each <td> (e.g., class="level1" class="level2") and use CSS to indent "Awards" "Citations" "Friends" etc. to the appropriate level for the visual folks.  Technically this is probably the most correct in terms of HTML, since the data does consist only of three types: box, folder, and contents.  But would the class attribute be any use to the non-visual folks?  Is it recognized by screen readers, and would it be enough to convey the hierarchical information in a useful manner?

SECOND:  One could do it as a multi-column table, putting the different levels into different columns (in the example above I'd need five columns: box, folder, c01, c02, c03) and spanning as necessary.  That (sort of) preserves the hierarchical nature of the information but it means there will be a bunch of extra columns, and I feel like this is using the table more for layout purposes than for actual tabular data.  Plus web-readers don't always do well with spanned columns - might just be a big mess -- and big tables can be slow to load in general.

THIRD: One could use separate tables for each set/subset of boxes/folders, and include the full hierarchy as the table caption, e.g.:

<table><caption>Memorabilia</caption>[box/folder list]</table>

<table><caption>Memorabilia - Photographs</caption>[box/folder list]</table>

But that poses problems when the list drops down to a lower level briefly and then comes back up (what do I do with "Scrapbooks" in his scenario, since the "Memorabilia" table is already closed above?  A separate table captioned "Memorabilia - continued"?)

FOURTH:  And of course the final option would be to not use tables at all and instead use different heading levels (<h1> <h2> etc.) to indicate subordinate levels of description, same as in a page of regular text that has topics and sub-topics.

Are there other approaches I've left out?  Does anyone have experience and/or thoughts on this?

Michele Combs
Lead Archivist
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University
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Joyce Chapman

Communications and Data Analysis Consultant

State Library of North Carolina

4640 Mail Service Center

Raleigh, NC 27699-4640

Phone: 919-807-7421 | Fax: 919-733-8748

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