MS Word Chapter 6: Tables, Charts, and Embedded Files


Be sure to follow these rules about tables.

  1. All of the data needs to fit into its own cell. If you have any data that does not fit, you can expand the cell.

  2. Do not create nested tables, split cells or merged cells.

  3. Keep using an easy to read font, with a strong color contrast ratio, and big font size. (Example: Times New Roman size 12.)

  4. All tables must have titles.

Section 6.1: Creating Tables with Accessible Headings

If you have tables in your project, you need to have accessible headings or header cells. This is because header cells are used to explain what a category is to a reader. Header cells also act as a controller for screen readers when tagged. You want a screen reader to read a header cell first, then the data cells. To create a table with an accessible heading or header cell,

  1. Go to the Insert Tab, find the Table Button and create your table. For our example, we will have 7 rows and 4 columns.

    Table Button in Microsoft Word
    The Insert Table box set with 5 columns and 11 rows.


  2. After typing in the information for the table, be sure to give the table a designated heading.


  3. Microsoft Word provides you with header cells in the table automatically. If you want them or not, you can change them by going to the Table Style Options box in the Table Tab.

If you would like to add a design or color to your table, just click on your table. A Table Design Tab will appear above.

Click the Table Design Tab, and go to the Table Styles dropdown menu and choose your style.

Section 6.2: Tables with Titles

Every table needs to have a title. When a screen reader reads the tables title, it will help the reader understand the tables purpose.

To add a title to your table,

  1. Right click on your table and click Table Properties.

  2. In the Table Properties box, go to the Alt Text tab and type in your title. Be sure it matches the title of your table that is visible to readers.

  3. You can also add a short description of your table in the description box.

Section 6.3: Tables with Data

When creating a table in any software, the main purpose is to show off data as easily and as simply as possible. To achieve this, you need to place each piece of data into a data cell or header cell.

Examples like the one above are usually made by using the tab key. Though it may look organized, this is not a real table. If a person were to use a screen reader on this, it would be very hard to navigate.

All of the tables data is inside its own data cell or header cell. We also have our data inside a real table and the tab key was not used.

Section 6.4: Organized Tables

When you create tables in Word, you must not use the Draw Table Tool. Drawing a table creates a graphic instead of a real table. When you have your table made and filled with information, you should make sure that your font is easy to read, each data cell or header cell has its content fit inside, and that the color contrast ratio is high.

This table is an absolute mess. The font is hard to read, and the text does not fit in its cell. Avoid making these mistakes. There is also no title, and the overall look is very poor. This will confuse readers.

Section 6.5: Charts

Charts are another way to display your data for viewers. There are many types of charts, including pie charts, bar graphs, line charts, and more.

To create a chart,

  1. Go to the Insert Tab.

  2. In the Illustrated Section, select the Chart Button and choose the chart you want.

  3. A chart will appear along with an Excel spreadsheet. This spreadsheet will allow you to manipulate the data anyway you want. To keep the chart fully accessible, change the font on the table to Times New Roman and at Size 12 for the normal text and size 18 for the title. Now click on the plus symbol for your chart and add data labels for the columns.

  4. Make sure the chart is inline with the text. To do so, click on the chart, then click the Layout Options button. Then select “Inline with Text”.

  5. Now you must add Alt Text to the chart. To do so, right click the chart and select Edit Alt Text. In the Alt Text Side Bar, explain your chart in less than 150 characters.

  6. Finally, consider adding a long description. Long descriptions are detailed explanations that tell the reader, in lots of details, what is on a page or graph or chart. Another way to do it is by creating a small table with the same data.

Section 6.6: Complex Tables

Complex Tables should be avoided because they are very difficult for screen readers to read. Consider the following rules when creating an accessible table.

Rule 1: A table must not contain nested tables, split cells or merged cells. Create a table with a simple format.

Section 6.7: Can I make a Layout Table Accessible?

In short, no. Layout tables should be avoided. It is an outdated practice made obsolete by the powerful visual styling options in CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Use the Word Styles as much as you can. Some of the layout features available in Word’s styles include:

  • Margins and padding around elements such as headings, paragraphs, list items, etc.

  • Borders

  • Tab Stops

  • Line Spacing

  • Indentation

  • “Frame,” which refers to the ability to float items and have text wrap around them

If you have to make a Layout table as a last resort, remember that they must not have table data headers.

How to create a layout table.

  1. Create a table as you would normally (Insert > Table).

  2. Select the whole table.

  3. Go to the Table Design Tab of the ribbon.

  4. Choose the No Border Option.

  5. Go to the Table Style Options panel and uncheck Header Row and First Column.

Section 6.8: How to make Accessible Embedded Files

Word allows you to embed files within your document. You can do this in two ways. One is as a link, the other is a embedded file. Keep in mind that if you do embed a file or link another file, you need to send both files to the reader. Otherwise the connection between the two files would be cut and the information for the user would be lost. To embed a file,

  1. In a blank word document, go to the Insert Tab. In the Text section, click Object.

  2. In the Object Box, go to the Create from File Tab. Click browse and find the file you want to attach. Click Display as Icon. Click OK.

  3. Your embedded file appears in Microsoft Word.

  4. Provide an Alt Text by right clicking on your embedded file. In the menu click Picture.

  5. In the Format Object Dialog Box, go to the Alt Text tab and type in an alt text for the file.