Accessible Presentations – Tables

Use built in Presentation structure features to insert elements. This benefits everyone because it’s usually much easier and more consistent than trying to achieve similar effects haphazardly.

Some tables are simple; others are complex – use the simplest structure possible. Only use tables for tabular data. Do not use them for page/visual layout. Avoid using split or merged cells because screen readers are not able to read them properly. Also, don’t use blank rows or columns for spacing – adjust your line spacing instead.

Always use Insert Table to create a table. (Never use Draw Table, Tab or Space to create something that looks like a table.)

Go to Insert > Table > Insert Table:

Screenshot of PPT 2013 Insert Table options with Insert Table highlighted

Choose the number of columns and rows you’ll need, remembering to include space for headers.

Screenshot of PPT 2013 Insert Table columns and rows dialog box

Once you insert a table, you’ll have access to the Table Tools Ribbons for Design and Layout.

Screenshot of PPT 2013 Table Tools Design ribbon

These are “contextual ribbon tabs” and are only visible in the ribbon when you click on your table.

Table headers and Table Style Options

Table headers are important for the accessibility of tables. In order to make tables accessible for screen readers, you’ll need to indicate Column and/or Row Headers for your table. The tools you’ll need to set table headers are located in the Table Tools tabs: Design and Layout.

Go to Table Style Options in the Table Tools Design tab. If your table has headings for each row, check the First Column box. If your table has headings for each column, check the Header Row box. If you have both row and column headings, check both First Column and Header Row.

Screenshot of PPT 2013 Table Style Options with Header Row highlighted

To make visual tracking easier, it may be helpful to check Banded Rows and/or Banded Columns in the Table Style Options area. This will depend on the nature or your data. Check out the visual options in the Table Styles area of the Table Tools Design tab, too. Pick the option that makes the most sense for your table.

Alt Text for Tables

Alt text will be discussed more fully when we talk about Illustrations/Images.

You should add meaningful alt text to the table – this supplies a brief description. To insert alt text for your table, right click on your table and choose Format Shape.

Screenshot of PPT 2013 right click options with Format Shape highlighted

This opens the Format Shape pane. Choose the Size and Properties icon from the Shape Options and add your alt text in the Description area.

Screenshot of PPT 2013 Format Shape pane with Alt Text Description area highlighted

We’ll continue with some other Presentation structure features next week: Lists, Columns & Line Spacing.


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