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Create an accessible Office document

Table with arrows showing way it will be read by screen reader

A screen reader will read cell A1, B1, C1; then to row 2, cell A2, B2, C2.

Screen readers and Braille displays read tables row by row across the columns. The TAB order also goes through the table in this way. So make sure that your table structure makes sense when read from left to right, row by row.

Consider the following simple table:

Attribute Cat Monkey Snake
Fur Yes Yes No
Legs 4 2 0

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

Which is not very helpful at all. It would be much better to list the information.

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

You can try this for yourself in the practice session.

Note     For Web pages, HTML provides a much more accessible way to design tables for Web sites. Different HTML tags identify the table header (<TH> tag) and table data (<TD> tag), so the data is presented by the screen reader or Braille display with the header information and data in context. In HTML you can also include a table summary in the <table> tag that explains the purpose of the table.

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