SCULPT Tables - structure of tables for accessibility

SCULPT Tables - structure of tables for accessibility

What is an accessible table?

Tables really should be used for data and not used to facilitate page or document layouts. 

When using tables to present data or information make sure you use a simple table structure with column headers, making sure that the tables don't contain split cells, merged cells, or nested tables (tables within tables).

The Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker will list any accessibility issues in your document, including tables.

You can also visually scan your tables to check that they don't have any completely blank rows or columns.

Why do it?

  • badly created tables can cause difficulties for screen readers or for those tabbing through information on a web page or a document
  • if a table is nested (built within another table) or if a cell is merged or split, the screen reader can’t provide helpful information
  • blank cells in a table could also mislead a screen reader into thinking that there is nothing more in the table
  • screen readers use column header information to identify rows and columns

Just imagine

If you could only use the arrow keys on your keyboard to tab through the table, could you logically tab up, down and left to right to get to every single cell logically and easily? If not, it's not accessible.

How to do it

Here are some instructions to be able to use column headers in tables.

Video file


The transcript for this video is available from Microsoft Office create accessible tables

A quick tip

To avoid frustration there are some things to avoid when creating tables in your document.

  • avoid merging columns
  • avoid merging rows
  • avoid splitting cells or adding extra cells within cells.
  • avoid putting tables within tables

Best practice tables

Make sure you have a table header row and keep table layouts as simple as possible without any merged or split cells. 

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