Properly tagging tables ensures screen readers are able to identify the type of information being displayed in each cell. For this reason, tables should only be used for displaying data and not for designing the layout for a page.
Header cells and data cells need to be identified in every table. Header cells are used to identify the title of the data being displayed in the column. Data cells are the actual data below the header cell.
An easy way to ensure the header cells in a basic table are properly identified is to use the Repeat Header Rows tool in Microsoft Word 2016. Access the tool by
- placing the mouse cursor in one of the header row cells,
- then selecting the Table Tools Layout tab, and
- choosing the Repeat Header Rows tool.
The Repeat Header Cells tool identifies the cells in the row as header cells and sets the header row cells to repeat at the top of the next page if the table spans across multiple pages. Not only does this help those using a screen reader it also helps those who see the document.
Word does not have the capability to identify merged cells in tables. Documents with tables that include merged cells will need to be converted to a PDF. Adobe Acrobat Pro DC has the ability to identify merged cells in complex tables.