Universal Design: Microsoft Word

Creating Accessible Tables (Applies to Word 2010/2013)

Tables are very useful for displaying a large amount of data in an organized manner, such as your course schedule, office hours, etc. In order to make a table accessible for individuals who are blind, have a visual impairment, or a learning disability, provide row and column headers. The text-to-speech software by default will read the information in a table horizontally, cell by cell, row by row.

To view an easy video tutorial please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGw-RevK3_8

Important Tips to Consider When Creating Tables in Word:

  • Do not use tabs or spaces to create tables. It may look like a table; however, it does not have the structure, and it will not be recognized as a table and therefore not be accessible or readable by assistive technologies.
  • Tables should be used to present columns and rows of data. Simple tables created in Word using the technique described below are accessible without modifications, and current screen reading software reads these simple tables quite well.
  • Do not use the Draw Table tool in Word to create tables. Screen reading software continues to have difficulty reading complex tables created in Word using the Draw Table tool because these types of tables usually have cells of different heights or a varying number of columns per row. The screen reading software cannot give the individual context for the table data because it is not possible to associate cells with the row and column headers.
  • Add Row and Column Headers to tables to distinguish the heading text from the data area of the table. Screen readers read simple tables efficiently when the column or row headers are clearly defined.
  • Repeat Row Headers if the table spans more than one page. Tables that are contained on multiple pages should have the header row repeated on each page.

Inserting a Table in Word 2010

  1. Insert > Expand the Table menu (Figure 1)
  2. Select the number of rows and columns using one of the methods below:
    1. Insert Table (Figure 1) > select the number of rows and columns in the Insert Table dialog box (Figure 2)> Select OK
    2. Visually selecting the number of rows and columns from the grid provided (Figure 1)

Insert Table from Word Ribbon Bar

Figure 1

Insert Table Dialog Box from Word

Figure 2

Inserting Header Rows in Word

A Header Row should be added to tables to distinguish the heading text from the data area of the table. Header rows are also important if the table spans more than one page. To repeat the header row when a table spans more than one page:

  1. Select the first row of the table > Right click for context menu > Table Properties…> Row tab
  2. Select (check) the option “Repeat as header row at the top of each page” (Figure 3)
  3. Select OK

Table Property Dialog BoxFigure 3

Other useful Microsoft Word Resources