Skip to main content

Avoid Layout Tables

If you're an instructor, chances are that you use tables for layout purposes in your documents. In a syllabus, for instance, you might want to show the relationships between weeks, topics, and assignments or a listing of assessments, point values, and due dates. Those who can visually see the table can easily understand the content. For a learner who relies on a screen reader, however, this is not so simple.

View a video clip showing one such table and a screen reader’s interpretation.

Screen readers read tables from left to right, top to bottom, and all contents in a given cell are read together. Thus, a screen reader user will find a table like that shown in the video (and illustrated below) to be confusing.

Sample Layout Table Showing Issues Screen Readers Face
Module Activity Points
Module 1 Activity 1
Activity 2
Activity 3
Module 2 Activity 1
Activity 2
Activity 3
Module 3 Activity 1
Activity 2

Though multiple solutions to this dilemma likely exist, one option is to create the modules as a list and then a list of activities and assessments within each module. The points for each assessment may then be placed next to the given assessment. For instance, the following list could replace the information in the table example:

  • Module 1
    • Activity 1, 20 points
    • Activity 2, 30 points
    • Activity 3, 40 points
  • Module 2
    • Activity 1, 25 points
    • Activity 2, 20 points
    • Activity 3, 30 points
  • Module 3
    • Activity 1, 50 points
    • Activity 2, 100 points
Open /*deleted href=#openmobile*/