Appropriate use of Tables

Tables can be used to hold data but need to be designed with headers to guide the screen reader user, so that the content makes sense when read aloud.  

Data table example
Name Address City
George Smith 5, Temple Street Southampton
Ann Jones 10, South Street Cardiff

Screen reader reading different table layouts

At one time tables were one of the only ways to offer navigation in a website that was designed into several separate areas.  This has changed with the use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and, when used correctly, these provide a better structure that is easier to navigate.

It may interesting to read a blog on the subject "Views from a Screen Reader User".


It is possible to check the code and look out for examples of table elements and attributes e.g. TR, TD, TH and CAPTION or to use the Web Developer toolbar which can show borders around the tables as can teh Webaim Wave online tool (as demonstrated on the Bronx Zoo webpage which has one data table)

Table outline highlighted

The AInspector Sidebar will also provide information about data table headers.  

However, the best method is to listen to the content of the table with a screen reader such as NVDA for Windows or Voice Over on Mac


This technique may be used to test the following sections of best practice.

Document Section Heading
WCAG 2.0 1.3 Create content that can be presented in different ways… More Info
WCAG 2.0 1.3.1 Info and Relationships More Info
WCAG 2.0 1.3.2 Meaningful Sequence More Info
WCAG 2.0 3.2.3 Consistent Navigation More Info

See Also

WCAG 2.0: Guideline 1.3 Adaptable: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure. Understanding Guideline 1.3

1.3.1 Info and Relationships: Information, structure, and relationships conveyed through presentation can be programmatically determined or are available in text. (Level A) How to Meet 1.3.1 | Understanding 1.3.1

1.3.2 Meaningful Sequence: When the sequence in which content is presented affects its meaning, a correct reading sequence can be programmatically determined. (Level A)  How to Meet 1.3.2 | Understanding 1.3.2

3.2.3 Consistent Navigation: Navigational mechanisms that are repeated on multiple Web pages within a set of Web pages occur in the same relative order each time they are repeated, unless a change is initiated by the user. (Level AA) How to Meet 3.2.3 | Understanding 3.2.3