This article describes the steps necessary for creating more accessible tables in Microsoft Word 2016.

Although tables help create aesthetically pleasing documents, they do not play nicely with screen readers and Braille displays so avoid tables when possible.

Consider the following simple example from Microsoft:

Table example with information not easily read by a screen reader

A screen reader will, in most cases, read out the information in this table as: attribute, cat, monkey, snake, fur, yes, yes, no, legs, 4, 2, 0.

This is not very helpful at all. It would be much better to list the information as shown below:

  • Cat: fur, four legs
  • Monkey: fur, two legs
  • Snake: no fur, no legs

Below is an example of a more accessible table, which uses headers. Although this has little or no effect in a visual environment, a Braille or speech reader can use thinformation to tell the user if this heading is a row heading or column heading. This, in turn, will enable the user to make more sense of the rest of the table.

Table example with information that is more accessible for  a screen reader

To make a more accessible table, add Alt Text and add a header row. Both processes are explained below.

Adding Alt Text

  1. Right-click anywhere in the table and choose Table Properties.

    Table Properties circled in a drop-down list

  2. Select the Alt Text tab and enter a title and description. Make the description as short and thorough as practical.

    Table Properties window with Alt Text tab circled

  3. Click OK to save the changes.

Adding Header Row Information

  1. Click anywhere in the table to select it.

  2. In the TABLE TOOLS tab, select the DESIGN tab.

    Table Tools tab with Design tab circled

  3. In the Table Style Options group, make sure that the Header Row check box is selected.

    Header Row and check box checked and circled in Table Style Options group

  4. Add the header information in the table.

    Table header information filled in and circled

Source of tables examples


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