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Re: Word documents and tables

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From: Cliff Tyllick
Date: Oct 26, 2010 9:18AM


Jeremy, I don't know about WebAIM's official position, but I do know the experience our authors have had with Word and tables. I first learned this approach from another participant (whose name I didn't catch) in a class at Knowbility's John Slatin Access U in May.

You can designate column and row headings in Word documents, and JAWS (and, I assume, other screen readers) will pick it up. But nowhere in Word's documentation have I found this procedure. Here's how you do it:

To make it possible for screen readers to recognize the headings in your table, add a bookmark to the first cell of each table:
- If the first row contains column headings *and* the first column contains row headings, name the bookmark "Title#," where "#" is the number of the table.
- If the first row contains column headings but the rest of the first column is data, not row headings, name the bookmark "ColumnTitle#," where # is the number of the table. (A decision table might be formatted this way.)
- If the first column contains row headings but the rest of the first row is data, not column headings, name the bookmark "RowTitle#," where # is the number of the table.

When JAWS encounters such a table, it will, at the appropriate verbosity setting, behave just like it does in a properly tagged table in an html or PDF document. For example, if the bookmark is a "Title" bookmark:
- If you move the cursor directly into a data cell, you will hear JAWS announce the column heading and then the row heading, followed in a different tone of voice by the contents of that cell.
- Move the cursor to the next row (same column), and JAWS will announce the new row heading and, in the different tone of voice, the contents of that cell.
- Move the cursor to the next column (same row), and JAWS will announce the new column heading and, in the different tone of voice, the contents of that cell.
All the "Repeat as header row" does is display (to people who can see) the header row on each new page when the table extends across more than one page. It does not affect what JAWS announces -- at least, it hasn't in any demonstration that I have witnessed. But, of course, redisplaying the header row is important for cognitive accessibility, even for people whose only "impairment" is a moment's distraction as they flipped the page.

I do know that it is possible to make Word accept multiple rows as the header row to be repeated across each page, but in my limited success with this I have also noticed that it makes the document in question much less stable. Save early, save often, and make backup copies if you do this. I don't have ready access to JAWS and have not tested whether the bookmark method will work with complex header rows or columns.

Oh, and one other thing: Although JAWS does interpret these bookmarks to mean that header cells are present, Acrobat 9 does not. In other words, when you convert the document to PDF, you will have to go in and tag the table's header columns and rows just as you always have. We don't have Acrobat X yet; maybe Andrew Kirkpatrick can let us know whether it will detect this device.

Finally, when a table is extensive, even if it isn't complex, I think it's good practice in any document that could end up in print to add a note that displays the url of the table in html. You don't have to be blind to appreciate having the ability to navigate a large or complex table in a browser.

Cliff

Cliff Tyllick
Usability assessment coordinator
Agency Communications Division
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
512-239-4516
<EMAIL REMOVED>

>>> On 10/26/2010 at 8:54 AM, in message < <EMAIL REMOVED> >, Jeremy Merritt < <EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:
Hi all,

In the WebAIM article on creating Word documents:

http://webaim.org/techniques/word/

It mentions two key points:


1. There is no way to assign table headers or <th> elements to a table created in Word.
2. There is no way to add row headers (headers across the side of a table) in Word.

The article suggests that the user mark that Word "Repeat as header row at the top of each page." But there is no fix for row headers.

So, are one-dimensional tables OK in Word, but if a document contains a 2-dimensional table (or a more complex table) that contains row headers, is the suggestion to only provide that document in PDF/HTML format with the tables properly tagged? Does WebAIM have an "official" suggestion on this?

Thanks,

Jeremy