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Naming and labeling tables in Word


From: Bourne, Sarah (ITD)
Date: May 28, 2014 10:39AM

We are in the process of designing an introductory course for creating accessible Word documents, based primarily on the great training modules created by the State of Texas (http://gov.texas.gov/disabilities/accessibledocs) and cross-checking with the advice from Microsoft and Freedom Scientific. We have run into two situations where the Best Practice advice does not actually seem to do anything for JAWS users: giving a table a name, and identifying headers. Testing was done with Word 2010 and JAWS 15, and verified by a few of our most technically proficient JAWS users.

Table naming: The are two methods for assigning a name to a table in JAWS. One is using a Word caption, which adds a caption before the table. The other ("required" by Word's accessibility checker) is to add alternative text. However, neither method seems to actually be used by JAWS. The name isn't read when you enter the table, and it is not used when you call up a list of tables. The list of tables just gives the content of the first row and the table dimensions (e.g., 3 x 3). I have tried using ALT text title, ALT text description, Caption, and every combination of them, but there is no difference in the Table List. If you use captions, you can use Word's feature to create a clickable Table of Figures (tables in this case), but there doesn't seem to be a way of viewing them without actually inserting them.

Table headers: Using Word table properties, you can identify a row as column headers. Word table styles also allow you to also identify row headers. However, JAWS does not make use of either. You can only get it to read headers with the cell contents if you use the proprietary workaround of using Word Bookmarks that start with "Title", "ColumnTitle", or "RowTitle", or if you use JAWS verbosity settings to identify the header rows and/or columns yourself. That method works whether you have used the Word features to identify headers or not, by the way.

So that makes me wonder why we are asking people to do these extra steps at all.
1. Is there any other screen reader that does make of use of these semantic hooks Word allows?
2. Is it only so it will be tagged properly when you "save as" PDF?
3. Is there some setting we are missing in JAWS?
4. Are aliens from space are messing with our minds and it works for everybody else?

Freedom Scientific's help desk was no help. Any insight or experience you can share would be appreciated.

Sarah E. Bourne
Director of Assistive Technology
Information Technology Division
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
1 Ashburton Pl. rm 1601 Boston MA 02108