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Last week’s presentation in our Accessibility Basics Webinar Series covered best practices for accessible data tables. Training Director Eric Lyons presented the webinar and has provided answers to the questions we received during Q&A – both those that were answered during the webinar and those we weren’t able to get to during the allotted time.

Would you recommend using the <caption> tag all the time, or if a heading is just above the table is that sufficient?

//EL: If a heading is used to section off content that includes the table, it is sufficient. IF, along with a heading, there is text visually associated with the table the describes it, you should place that in a <caption> tag in the table.

If we have tables with multiple rows and some rows have fused cells (sub-headings), do we need to identify those with IDs?

//EL: If by fused cells you mean merged cells, and they act as column or row headers, you should give them ids and then associate the related cells with them.

Should we avoid empty th elements such as in the corner of table with th used in both columns and rows?

//EL: Yes. You should avoid empty column and row headers, and instead use <td>

How do you make tables compliant in PDF?

//EL: This is another discussion in itself. There are ways to work with the structure of a PDF in Acrobat. The concepts are the same, but the way you achieve them are different, and out of the scope of this webinar. We may offer this as another webinar in the future.

I have used Adobe Acrobat to markup complex tables, but it’s a nightmare. Is there another tool out there that is easier/better to use?

//EL: There are tools out there that automate things in PDF like table structure. Common Look is one off the top of my head, but at a cost. There may be free ones out there, but I’m not aware of any.

We have had a hot debate regarding the placement of a button in a row.  One opinion is that the button should be at the END of the row. Another option is that the button be placed in the first column and include all of the information in the columns for the row in the title attribute. What’s your opinion?

//EL: My opinion is that it should go at the end. That gives the user the ability to traverse the entire row before they make a decision.

How do we deal with empty cells? what is the best practice to have in an empty cell? A dash, N/A, or leave it blank? What would make sure that when we linearize the table having empty cells will not have an impact?

//EL: An empty cell can be left as is. Empty. As long as you avoid empty <th> cells, and reserve empty cells for <td>, screen readers should ignore the blank space. It’s when you leave empty <th> cells that it can get tricky with navigation.

When we have merged cells, is the scope sufficient? or is best using the id and headers?

//EL: With merged cells, as long as the cells below it are all data cells, and don’t call on another heading below, scope should be sufficient.

Are there any recommendations for tables that filter on certain columns?

//EL: For tables that filter, best practices to keep in mind are that the filter mechanism is sufficiently described and keyboard accessible. We’ll talk about keyboard accessibility in a future webinar.

Can you provide an example of what you mean by a technically accessible table that is not functional?  I was under the impression that making a table accessible only involves markup, not functionality? 

//EL: I believe this question was part of a discussion in the chat. Making a table technically accessible in say Acrobat, but then having it fail the automatic checker is a good example. If an organization relies on the passing of the checker, and you have created a technically accessible table, but it still fails the checker, this may be considered a functional fail.

Is there a way to have layout tables not display in the JAWS table list insert+ctrl+T? 

//EL: You can give the table a role=“presentation” This tells the screen reader to ignore it.

If you are using the scope for col and row, do you need to use anything for the tooltips for the data in the cells of the table?

//EL: I don’t know of an answer to this. I would say you would want to make sure you follow the best practices for keyboard access and focus indication for tooltips. We’ll address keyboard access and focus in later webinars.

Can you manually manipulate the HTML tags in a PDF? Sometimes the tools that Adobe gives you to apply the tags does not apply them correctly and I want to just alter the tags myself.

//EL: The tools for making a PDF accessible are a much bigger discussion and not a simple answer. Sounds like there is interest in having a PDF webinar series. We could address it then.