Tables Digital Accessibility

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Digital Accessibility


Simple tables

A table allows displaying information in a structured way, and with a visual format that facilitates the understanding of the data.

We should not use tables to lay out documents, that is, use the tables to visually structure the document. Since it is not their purpose, and can create difficulties of access and understanding of the content to people who use support products such as screen readers.

Nor should we simulate tables by including tabulations and/or blank spaces, as we will again be creating difficulties for people who use a screen reader, such as blind people.

The simpler a table, the easier it will be to understand, so it is not advisable to make complex groupings. If that were the case, it is better to divide a large table into several smaller ones.

Finally, we will avoid including tables within tables.

To insert a table in Word, we follow these steps:

  1. Select the Insert tab.
  2. Click on Table and select the option Insert table... Menú desplegable insertar nueva tabla
  3. In the new window that appears we introduce the number of rows and columns that we want our table to have. Ventana insertar tabla
  4. We finish by clicking on OK.

The draw table option should not be used since the resulting table will not be accessible.


Uniform tables

The tables must be uniform. A uniform table is the one with the same number of cells in all the rows and the same number of cells in all its columns. That's why we will avoid tables with:

  • split cells
  • combined cells
  • nested tables
  • rows and columns completely blank

This way we will have the same number of rows per column and the same number of columns per row. Screen readers track their location in a table by counting the cells in it. If one table is nested within another, or if cells are combined or divided, the reader gets lost counting and can not supply useful information about the table. Blank cells in a table could also may make a person who uses a screen reader think that there is nothing else in it.

Let's see an example of a not-accessible table.

Tabla con celdas combinadas

We can verify that the table is not uniform, since there are two combined cells. Visually, users will understand that the grades in cells 2 and 3 is the same. But a screen reader user, for example, could get lost when browsing the table and not understand it.

We should not leave empty cells. It is recommended to put the word empty inside of them, and we must also avoid leaving empty rows or columns due to design issues. So that the word "empty" is not visually written inside the cell, we can put a white text color or use the cell background’s one.

If we have a table with combined cells, we can transform it into a uniform table by dividing these cells.

  1. We place the pointer inside the combined cell (two cells previously joined).
  2. Press the right button that opens a popup window, click Split cells

Menú tabla dividir celdas


Describing a table

For each table we must provide additional information; a title that identifies its purpose and an alternative text that describes its structure.


Table caption

Inserting a table caption will inform the users of its purpose. This caption must be unique and descriptive, in this way it will allow users to know what the table contains and decide whether to read it or not.

To add the caption to a table, we will follow these steps:

  1. Click on the right button on the selected table.
  2. Select Insert caption...  Menú tabla insertar título
  3. In the new window that appears, we introduce the caption that we want.
  4. In the Options section:
    1. In Label select table.
    2. Under Position, select Above selected item .
    Ventana título de tabla
Alternative text

We must include a description that facilitates the understanding of the structure of the table for people who use support products. For this, we will follow these steps in Word:

  1. Click on the right button on the table
  2. Select Table Properties... Menú tabla propiedades de tabla
  3. Select the Alternative text tab.
  4. Write a description in the Description field. Panel propiedades de tabla texto alternativo

As a summary we see a table with a simple and accessible structure design with the title: "Final grades of the accessibility course" and description: "Table with four columns: Name of the student, exercise grades, theory and final grade."

Use of headers

The tables must have the headers defined correctly. To indicate that a row or column is a header we follow these steps in Word:

  1. We click inside the table, his way the Table toolbar will appear.
  2. Within this bar we select the Design tab. Barra de herramientas de diseño de tabla
  3. We enable the Header Row checkbox. Barra de herramientas diseño de tabla fila de encabezado

We should not create large tables that could occupy more than one page, since users of screen readers may encounter some accessibility problem when accessing information. If this happens, it is suggested that each time the page is full, the column headers are repeated on each and every page.

For this, we follow these steps in Word:

  1. We select the entire table and click with the right mouse button.
  2. In the menu we will select Table Properties .
  3. In the Row tab we mark the option Repeat as header row at the top of each page . Repetición de encabezado de tabla en páginas


Graphics  Images and non-textual elements