[Athen] [EXT] Tables accessibility

chagnon at pubcom.com chagnon at pubcom.com
Tue Jun 9 07:13:19 PDT 2020

At this time, there isn’t a standard for accessible office documents (Word, GoogleDocs, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.).

We have WCAG for HTML/web content, PDF/UA for PDF files, and EPUB for EPUB documents. But nothing designed specifically for office documents.

So what you find on the web are recommendations, and maybe an entity’s requirements (such as from a university or government agency). Generally the recommendations are based on WCAG and PDF/UA.

But there is no thorough, vetted, and official set of standards for office documents, such as an ISO standard.

So in a way, we’re all just making this up as we go along. <grin>

Our guidelines to clients and students regarding Alt-text on tables:

* Make a better, more simple table so that it doesn’t need to be explained with Alt-text (or summary or caption or something else).
* If it would be helpful to those with vision deficiencies to have this type of information, then make it available to all users, not just those using screen readers. Alt-text is often hidden from most users, and is voiced only by screen readers, so this is not the best way to convey the information to everyone.
* Live narrative text is always a better way to provide this info to all users. Tag it Caption or Summary and place it before the table itself to ensure the widest audience can access it. Long ago when I was in academia publishing, this information was a phrase, sentence, or short paragraph that precedes the table, called Prefatory Information. It still is one of the most effective and efficient ways to communicate to all users. And it doesn’t require any addition tools or coding to be useful and accessible.

Just my 2 cents’ worth.


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From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of Khaleel Eksheir
Sent: Tuesday, June 9, 2020 9:39 AM
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Athen] [EXT] Tables accessibility

Hi Glen and Robert,

Yes, Robert's answer is what I was looking for. The Alt Text option was available in MS Office for tables and I always recommended to use it. But now that its removed, and not an accessibility standard, I learned something new and I will not include it in my recommendations.

Thank you so much for the clarification and the information.


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