ADA Content: Tables


Best Practice Solution for: Using Tables

Accessibility Standard: Tables Should be Properly Formatted

Reason: Tables that lack row and column headings and specific attributes could prevent users with screen readers from navigating tables properly.


  • If using Microsoft office:
    • add row and column headers
    • select to repeat Row Headers if the table spans more than one page
    • add Alt Text (Word 2010)
    • do not use tabs and spaces to create a table
    • do not use the Draw Table tool
  • If working with a WYSIWYG editor:
    • use the <TH> and <TD> tags
    • add caption or summary information
    • for more complex tables use the Scope Attribute

Microsoft Word Tables

After you Insert a Table (Insert > Table), right click on the first table row and click Properties, make sure the option for "Repeat as header row a the top of each page" is checked. This will help screen readers distinguish heading text from the data presented in the cells.

image shows how to select the option for repeat header row in 2007 

In Microsoft Word 10 you can also select an Alt. Text tab from within the Table Properties area. This will allow you to add a title for the whole table as well as a description of table contents.

image shows how to select repeat as header in Word 

WYSIWYG editor Tables

The <TH> tag is used to signify column or row Headers and the <TD> tag is used for data cells.

Use the "scope" attribute for columns and rows in conjunction with the <TH> or <TD> tags for more detailed tables. Keep in mind not all WYSIWYG editors have this as an option. The Scope attribute associates the content in each cell with a column or row. For more information on using the Scope attribute view the site for Associating header information with data cells.

Depending on the type of WYSIWYG editor, access to the HTML (hyper text mark up language) that it creates in the background is easy to get to. If this is the case you can add the tags by hand. If not, you may have to search the editors Help files to find how to access specific tags.

In SeaMonkey, after you insert a table (Table, select Insert Table) you can add various tags by clicking on the inserted table and going to "Table" in the file menu and selecting "Table Properties".

image of accessing table properties 

In the "Table Properties", in the "Table" tab, select to add a Caption by using the pull down menu.

image shows where to add a table caption 

Click the "Advanced Edit..." button to add a Summary attribute to your table. Enter the summary text in the "Value" text block.

image shows how to access the summary attribute via Advanced Edit 

Select the "Cells" tab and use the Cell Style pull down menu to associated a selected cell as a Header or <TH> cell.

image shows how to add the header tag to a cell 

For more advanced tables, in the "Cells" tab, click "Advanced Edit" to add the Scope attribute to a particular cell. Type in its associated value in the "Value" text block.

image shows how to access the Scope attribute for cells 


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