Create more accessible Word documents

Create accessible tables

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Tables organize information visually and help you show relationships between things. Learn how to set up tables so they can be read out loud to people who use a screen reader.

To add a header row to a table

  1. Choose Insert > Table to insert a table.

  2. Choose the number of boxes you want across to create columns, and then choose the number of boxes you want down to create rows for your table.

    Note: When you add a table to your document, two new tabs to appear in the ribbon: Design and Layout. These are the Table Tools.

  3. On the Design tab, choose the Table Styles Options group, and then choose Header row. Other options include Banded Rows or Total Row.

Your table now has a header row. This means that, behind the scenes, Word and any assistive technologies can communicate intelligently about the table.

Add column headings

  1. Place your cursor in the first box on the top row of your new table.

  2. Type the name for this column and then press Tab to move from one column to the next. Add additional column names as needed.

Your table now has column names, which makes it easier to understand the information that the table contains. Some screen readers can be set up to read column names at any time, which can help when working with a large table.

Want more?

Accessibility Checklist for Word 2016 (hosted on

Accessibility in Office 365

Tables that include nested tables, split cells, or merged cells can trip up even the best screen-reading programs.

Here are a few ways to check the accessibility of your tables.

First, try navigating all the way through your table using only the Tab key.

If you can Tab smoothly through the table, cell by cell and row by row, a screen reader should have no trouble with it.

In English-language tables, the Tab key should move from left to right, starting in the top left cell and ending in the bottom right.

Next, consider the use of a designated header row for your table.

Designated header rows make it easier for a screen reader to navigate your table, and some screen readers will call out the name of a row or column before reading the data.

To designate a row as a header, select it, then right-click and select Table Properties.

Select the Row tab, and check Repeat as header row at the top of each page.

Also, be sure Allow row to break across pages is unchecked.

While you’ve got the Table Properties window open, it’s a good time to check your table’s alt text.

Select the Alt Text tab, and make sure the alt text is clear, descriptive, and concise.

Once your header row and alt text are ready, choose OK.

A common stumbling block for accessible tables are split cells, where two cells occupy the space of a single cell.

In this column, we’ve got a split cell that might cause problems for a screen reader.

To merge these split cells into a single cell, we’ll select them, right-click, and choose Merge Cells.

For more about creating accessible documents, go to

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