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Tables — Acrobat 8

If you’ve got a document that already has the tables tagged, lucky you. However you’re going to have to inspect the table to make sure it is properly tagged. To do this, open the Touch-Up Reading Order Panel and make sure “Show Page Reading Order” is checked. Click on the number in the top left hand corner of the table, then click “Table Inspector” on the Touch-Up Reading Order Panel.

Click Number then select Table Inspector

Click Number then select Table Inspector

Your table should now be outlined in red (The default color is red. You can change it in the options). The cell outlines may not match up to the cell outlines on the PDF, but as long as the cells are properly tagged, you should be fine.

Table Inspector

Table Inspector

In order to be considered accessible, tables need to have column headers. Sometimes they also have row headers. In the table above, column headers will be sufficient. You also need to set the scope for the header cells. This tells a screen reader that it is to associate column headers with the cells in that column.

While in Table Inspector mode, right click on a cell that you want to make a header. In this case we’ll choose Region because it is the top cell of the first column. You see that a pop up appears with two choices: 1) Table Cell Properties and 2) Table Inspector Options

Right click on cell

Right click on cell

Choose Table Cell Properties and Under Type, select the radio button in front of Header.
To set the scope, choose column in the drop down list labeled Scope.
Click OK.

Select Header Cell and Column

Select Header Cell and Column

Do this with the remainder of the column headers. You can hold the shift key while right clicking on multiple cells and change them all at once if you’d like.
If you think the first tag in the rows are headers as well, then tag them as headers using the same process, except choose Row under Scope. Your newly tagged header cells will now be shaded.

Column headers are now shaded

Column headers are now shaded

In addition to setting scope in the table inspector, you can check to see if cells that span multiple rows or columns are correctly labeled. After calling up the table inspector and right clicking a cell that spans multiple rows or columns, look under the Attributes heading. It should indicate how many columns or rows it spans. In the image below, the row span attribute is incorrect. You will not be able to change the span attribute by using the table inspector, but you will be able to do so in the tags panel by following the directions below.

Incorrect Row span attribute

Incorrect Row span attribute

Right click on the table data or header tag in the tags panel and choose properties.

Right click on table header and click properties

Right click on table header and click properties

Click Edit Attribute Objects under the Tag Tab


Expand (click on the +) Attribute objects — look for Table and check for ColSpan


If the colspan number is incorrect, click on the ColSpan and click “Change Item”. In the window that pops up, change the Value to the correct number. In this case we’ll change the 2 to a 1


If there is no table attribute you’ll have to make one

  1. Click New Item on the Tag tab
  2. Expand attribute item by clicking on the +
  3. Highlight Layout
  4. Click Change Item
  5. Type Table
  6. Click OK
  7. Highlight Attribute Item again
  8. Click New Item
  9. Type ColSpan (Or RowSpan if the cell spans multiple rows) in the form field marked “Key”
  10. In the form field marked “Value” Type the number of columns or rows the cell spans and choose “Integer” from drop down menu.
  11. Click OK and then OK again on the Attribute window.
  12. Save your file then check the table inspector again to see if the Column or Row span field has changed to reflect your changes. You may need to close the file and re-open it to see the changes.

If there is a table attribute but no Col or RowSpan, just follow steps 7 – 12.

The table inspector can help you make sure that each cell is a cell (sometimes the table creator makes each line of text in a cell a separate cell). To fix this

  1. Open the Touch-Up Reading Order Panel and draw a rectangle around a cell in the table. Click “Cell”. Do this with any cell that is incorrectly labeled.
  2. In the tags panel, move the cells around so they are in the correct order (PDF table tags should look a lot like HTML table tags – each <Table> needs to have as many Table Rows <TR> cells down the left hand side of the table. Under the Table Row tags you need to place the Table Data cells that correspond to the columns.
  3. A well constructed table will also have <THead> and <TBody> (but at this time, I’m not sure where to put them)

If content that should be a table is not tagged as a table, you’ll have to do it from scratch. Open the Touch-Up Reading Order Panel and draw a rectangle around the content you want tagged as a table and click Table on the Touch-Up Reading Order Panel.


Elicit the Table Inspector on the Touch-Up Reading Order Panel to see if your table was correctly tagged. The one we just tagged has a problem. Local should not be a 2-column spanning cell. The headers should be Region, Local Specialists and States Covered. You’ll need to fix this by working with the tags.


First, draw a rectangle around Local Specialists and tag it as a cell.


Then look at the tag panel and find the table you created. The <TR> tags should correspond with the number of rows in the table. In this case we should have 7 rows, but there are 8 <TR> tags. The top one is empty (no boxes), so you can delete it.

Delete the top table row

Delete the top table row

Then check the next table row. In this case the cells are out of order. Rearrange the cells so they correspond with the order of the table in your PDF.

unorderedKeep going back to the Table Inspector to check that the table looks right. Remember that you’ll need table column headers to pass the accessibility check.

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