In the past we have looked at how to use the accessibility checker built into Word.  It highlights issues and explains how to fix them.  We’ve also looked at how tables should be laid out properly.  A common issue with tables – that PC users of Word using the accessibility checker will see – is that the table must have alternative text and a specified header row in order to be considered accessible. Alternative text for a table should usually list the items in the header row.  With a syllabus, for example, this might be something like week, reading, and due date.  It gives a screen reader user an idea of what is in the table.  Specifying the header row allows a screen reader user to know that the top row lists the type of information which will appear in the following rows. For example: One, Two, and Three corresponding to Week One, Week Two, and Week Three.

However, if you are creating Word files on a Mac, these issues will not be highlighted.  So, if you are a Mac user and have tables in your Word documents there are two things you could do:

  1. Open those files in Word on a PC, run the accessibility checker, and fix them.
  2. On the Mac you can “control-click” on the table and open the table properties.  In table properties, click on the Row tab and make sure “repeat as header row at the top of each page” is checked.  Then click on the Alt-text tab, enter the alt-text in the description box, and finally, click “ok”.  (For PC users, follow these same steps, but right click on the table to get to table properties)