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In last week’s PDF Accessibility Basics Series webinar we discussed tagging simple and complex tables using the Touch Up Reading Order Table Editor tool. This post includes answers to the questions we received during the live event.

Webinar Q&A

Q: It’s been a while since I’ve looked at CommonLook PDF, but it had a feature where the user could have the tool add the header text to every individual data cell via the content tag wrapped in a <span> tag and changing the actual text.  I thought this was a horrible feature because it seemingly compensated for poorly tagged tables and increased the text read by screen readers making navigation much more confusing.  What is your opinion of this practice.  It violates the spirit of Section 508 in my opinion.

A: I agree with you. While it allows the table to pretend to be structurally marked up, the actual semantic markup is missing. Following the standards will lead to a much more robust document than utilizing work arounds for specific situations.

Q: when you selected table cells, did it matter which order you added them in?

A: I like to do it in order which I believe helps Acrobat order the tags properly. However, Acrobat has algorithms that try to keep things in order so it may not necessary. And either way, if the tags end up out of order you can always move them to their proper placement.

Q: Adobe release a new upgrade where you can create ID from headers. Have you tried it? if so, it is accurate?

A: I have not had a chance to play with it yet, but as with all auto tagging I would double check each cell.

Q: Can I ask why he used the touchup reading order tool to call it a table when it was already successfully tagged as a table?

A: I wanted to demonstrate the different ways in which you can create a table. First by using the Touch Up Reading Order tool and second by creating it manually in the tag tree.

Q: Is it just for demo purposes, or was something wrong with the initial version?   I’d e interested in hearing what was wrong with the document as sent?

A: The initial version only had paragraph tags and needed the semantic table markup to convey the visual relationship of the table elements.

Q: Can you set multiples at the same time?

A: Yes, by using the shift key while clicking on the cells.

Q: When I hit “okay” on this window, it doesn’t close or save the change.

A: Unfortunately, Acrobat does not always give informative error messages

Q: Is there a reason to manually edit “TD” to “TH” in the tag tree when you have to open the table editor to edit the scope?

A: That was done only for demonstration purposes, but if you are not getting the expected results with the table editor the tag tree is available.

Q: Is there a way to edit scope in the tag tree, or only via the table editor?

A: You can also edit scope in the tag’s properties dialog by modifying the attribute objects but the table editor is much easier.

Q: Is there somewhere that I can, in one place find the actual meaning of the tags.

A: Joe Clark has a great breakdown posted on A List Apart here: https://alistapart.com/d/pdf_accessibility/PDFtags.html

Q: Like scope on several TH’s at the same time?

A: You can select the first heading and then, pressing the shift key, and click the other headings.

Q: How do you handle issues where Acrobat does not recognize cells properly, thereby preventing you from associating proper scope?

A: I would right click the tag in question and select properties. With the tag tab selected and click Edit Attribute Objects… If the scope is already present under the Attribute Object you can highlight Scope and click Change Item then change the Value to the correct scope. If Scope is not already present, highlight the Attribute Object click New Item make the Value the correct scope and the Value Type Scope.

Q: Do we have to do anything with that extra tag that follows the table in this document?

A: That extra P tag can be made an artifact as it is not text and should not be read.

Q: I’d suggest cautioning the audience to making frequent saves as well as saving a separate original copy of the document – because Adobe is notorious for deleting cell content without warning.

A: Agreed save often. And save as a new file with a slightly altered name. There is nothing worse than finishing a page and realizing that it broke something in a previous page and not having backups.

Q: you did not have the same structure as in the slide picture. The THEAD and TBody are missing… does that matter?

A: In a complex table they are useful but not in simple tables. Camps are divided on this though, go with what your policy is.

Q: in Complex Tables, have you use the AUTO GENERATE ID?

A: Yes, ids should be used for complex tables instead of relying on scope but just make sure not to use both scope and ids.

Q: Does the scope need to be defined for the complex table?

A: Either use ids or scope but not both.

Q: Do classes exists in acrobat?

A: Not in the tag tree.

Q: Does the order of the associated IDs make a difference?

A: The order of associated IDs determines the order in which they are read.

Q: Can now ADOBE autogenerate the IDS in a complex table?

A: Technically, yes but you should double check them.

Q: Is it possible to use ids in table header cells which are scopes for row or/and column? (indirect reference)

A: I caution against using ids and scope in the same table. It is possible though.

Q: Can you repeat that? You should keep the Scope as “None” if you’re using IDs?

A: That is correct. Scope should be None if you are using IDs.

Q: How about the Row and Column Span? Do they need to be used?

A: Spanning columns and rows should be used when appropriate independent of scope and ID.

Q: what about badly designed tables.   like tables inside a table with merged header rows on top, or in the middle… and the client will not allow you to remediate.

A: That is a perfect time to use IDs so you can specify exactly which headings go with each cell.

Q: What would be a suggestion for an apply button?  Would it be best to have at the top of the page or after the descriptive page content explaining what the individual would be applying for?  Thanks.

A: I would recommend putting content in the order you would like it encountered. If the content after the Apply button is optional and not necessary to know before clicking Apply then put it first.

Q: Is it best to create a table in word and then go to pdf, or start just in pdf?

A: Building a document in PDF is very difficult. Word, InDesign, LibreOffice, etc. should be used to create the document, then export it to PDF, and then fix the tags in PDF.