6-7.1 Rationale

Screen readers have difficulty interpreting data if the tables are not designed properly. A sighted person can scan down a column and across a row of a data table. For a visually impaired person, listening to this same information with a screen reader can be a daunting task. When tables are created using software for generating HTML pages (e.g., HTML editors or office suites), the underlying source code may not be accessible using screen reader software. The techniques outlined in section 6-7.2 must be applied regardless of the software used to generate HTML.

There are three general uses for tables: data tables (simple and/or complex data), document layout tables, and forms within data tables.

If a data table has one logical level of row or column headers, it is a simple table. Complex tables are data tables that have more than one logical level of row or column headers.

When a table is used for layout purposes, ensure that the layout is not required to understand the information. The page content layout should be transparent to the interpretation of the page content.

Forms within tables are addressed in section 6-13.