Creating an Accessible Table in Word

Screenshot of the Insert Table window in Microsoft Word.

General education teachers are creating digital materials to be used by their students.  Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) should spend a little time training general education teachers on how to make their materials accessible.  Armed with a little accessibility knowledge, all teachers can create accessible documents - including tables - with the TVI modifying these documents.  Do you have tech savvy general education teachers?  Simply share this post and be available to answer any initial questions.  

Do you want to quickly check to see if a previously made table in a Word document is accessible?  Use Word's built-in accessibility checker!  (See step #9 below.)

Steps to creating an accessible Table

1.  In the Ribbon, select Insert tab, then select Table.

2.  Select the number of rows and columns by highlighting the boxes on the grid.

Screenshot that shows Insert Table window with a grid used to select the number of rows and columns that will be used in the Table.

3. Type in the table data.

4. Title your table using the caption tool.

  • In the Ribbon, select References tab, then select Insert Caption.
  • In the popup window, type the title of the table in the Caption textbox.
  • In the Label textbox, select Table. Then select OK.

Screenshot showing the popup window to add the Table title and to label the image as a table

5.     Identify the Header Row

  • Select the top row of the table and right click.
  • Choose Table Properties.
  • In the popup window, select the Row Tab and check “Repeat as header row at the top of each page.”  Then select OK.

Screenshot of Table Properties Ribbon tab displaying checked Row with Repeat as header row at the top of the page.

6.     Restrict the table to your page width.

  • Select the entire table and right click.
  • Choose Table Properties.
  • In the popup window, select the Row tab and uncheck “Allow rows to break across pages.”

Restrict Table Width: Screenshot of Table Properties with unchecked  "Allow row to break across pages."

7.     Add Bookmark

  • Place cursor inside the first cell (A1). 
  • In the ribbon, select the Insert tab, then select Bookmark.
  • In the Bookmark name textbox, type “Title” then the name of your table.  Use underscores instead of spaces. 

Screenshot of Bookmark window with title typed in.

8.     Add Alt Tag description to Table

  • Right click on the Table and select Table Properties.
  • In the popup window, select Alt Text.
  • Type in a description of your table

Alt Text window with the title and table layout description.

9.     Use the Word Accessibility Checker to check for accessibility.

  • In the Ribbon, select the Review Tab, then select Check Accessibility.
  • The Accessibility Checker will appear on the right side of the screen with the inspection results.  If there are accessibility issues, the errors will be listed.

Screenshot of Accessibility Checker window open with "Error, Missing alt text, Table".

10.     Things you should NOT do:

  • Do not create your table using the Draw Table Tool.
  • Do not create page layouts with tables.
  • Do not merge or split cells.
  • Do not control spacing in your table with blank rows or columns.  Adjust line spacing instead.

Printable copy of the Creating an Accessible Table Instructions.