Skip to content

Tables – Acrobat 9

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 editor” on the Touch-Up Reading Order Panel.

Screen capture of touch-up reading order panel and a tagged table

Screen capture of touch-up reading order panel and a tagged table

Your table should now be outlined in red (the default color is red. You can change it in the table editor 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.

Screen capture of a table outlined in red showing table cells.

Screen capture of a table outlined in red showing table cells.

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. The table above does not have any column headers. If it did the top row would be shaded red in table editor mode.

While in table editor mode, right click on a cell that you want to make a header. In this case we’ll choose Play Experiences 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 Editor Options (Table Editor Options allows you to change the color of the outline and highlighting color for the header cells as well as colors for other cells. It also allows you to choose if you’d like to shade cells spanning multiple rows or columns or if you want to show table data and header cells with TH or TD in the cells.)

Screen shot of table editor options and properties menu

Screen shot of table editor options and properties menu

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.

Screen capture of the table cell properties window with Header Cell selected=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 (it is a little hard to tell in the example below because the header cells are dark to begin with. Note that I also tagged two of the cells in the second row as headers. This will be discussed later.

Screen capture of table in table editor mode with shaded header cells

Screen capture of table in table editor mode with shaded header cells

In addition to setting scope in the table editor, you can check to see if cells that span multiple rows or columns are correctly labeled. After calling up the table editor 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. Acrobat 9 allows you to change the column and row span in the editor itself.

Screen capture of table cell properties with Attributes circled and cell that spans multiple=

The cell spans 2 columns, but the properties says it spans 1

Change the 1 to a 2 and click OK. You’ll get a warning that the change might result in a malformed table structure. While that can happen, in this case it is not going to harm the table. The cell you changed should change color now to let you know it spans multiple cells.

Screen capture of a table in table editor mode with different color shading of cells that span multiple cells.

The cells turned purple instead of red

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Gary permalink
    November 19, 2010 11:19 pm

    This is the most useful info I found on Tables in Acrobat 9 to date. I’ve some elaborate tables to format for accessibility with sub-columns and headers rows in a 200 page doc, this give me a good start as I dive in.


  2. Deb permalink
    November 16, 2014 7:12 pm

    This is awesome info! I agree with Gary, this is some of the most useful info on tagging tables I’ve found as well.

    I do have a problem with some tables where I’ll mark that a header spans multiple columns and click OK, but it doesn’t apply the settings. When I open the table cell properties window, it still says 1.

    I also have a table that is tagged as a table, but Acrobat Pro 11 only recognizes some of the rows in the left column. It doesn’t recognize any data cells, and when I double-click the cells to mark them as a cell, it doesn’t see some of the cells in the middle of the table.

    Have you had either of these issues? FYI – our company includes the table title and table notes in merged cells at the top and bottom of the tables. I don’t know if that causes issues, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it does.

    I’m trying to make an 894-page doc accessible and pulling my hair out so any help would be appreciated!

    Thank you,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: