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Accessible Tables

Tables are used to organize information in rows and columns. Common types of tables include:

  • research data
  • schedules or calendars
  • grading criteria and rubrics

Table Column Headers

Accessible tables need additional structural elements called “table column headers” to help screen readers identify how data is organized by column, row, or columns and rows. For the table in Figure 1, screen readers describe to the user how data is organized in columns by Date, Event, and Venue.

three column table
Figure 1. Data table with column headers.

Column headers should not be confused with heading styles. Making the column headers look like headings is not the same as designating the cells in the top row as “column headers”.

Making Tables Accessible With Microsoft Word

It’s easy to add column headers to a Microsoft Word table. Follow these steps:

  1. Create the table using Word’s table tool.
  2. Use the cells in the top row to describe the data in each column.
  3. Select the top row with your cursor.
  4. Right-click on the table and choose Table Properties.
  5. With the Row tab selected, check “Repeat as header row at the top of the page”.
  6. Okay.
Making Word Tables Accessible
Figure 2. Adding column headers to a Word table.

Alt Text for Tables

Microsoft Word also recommends adding Alt Text for each table. Alternative text describes the type and content of the HTML element. Select the Alt Text tab and:

  • Title: Enter “Table” to describe type.
  • Description: Enter a brief description of the table data or contents, such as “Calendar of Events”.

Making HTML Tables Accessible With Folio

If you need to use tables, HTML tables for the Web built with Folio will always be the best option for accessibility. To convert the top row data cells into column headers, follow these steps:

Date Event Venue
12 February Waltz with Strauss Main Hall
24 March The Obelisks West Wing
14 April The What Main Hall
  1. Create the table using Folio’s Table tool.
  2. Use the cells in the top row to describe the data in each column.
  3. Select the first cell in the top row.
  4. Select Cell Properties from the Create Table dropdown menu
  5. Change Cell Type to Column Group Header.
  6. Repeat for each cell in the top row.
  7. Update
Adding column headers to Folio tables
Figure 3. Adding column headers to a Folio Web table.


» Learn more about formatting Web tables for accessibility.

Last updated: 1/6/2020