Join Chad Chelius for an in-depth discussion in this video Working with complex tables, part of Advanced Accessible PDFs.
- As tables get more complex, they become more of a challenge to remediate. Here I want to show how you might consider addressing a situation with a complex table. Now this document is a PDF file that I created from Microsoft Word 2013 and I'm going to jump to page 12 because on that page we have a table that's going to need some remediation. I'm going to run the Accessibility Checker to show you that we have a regularity error. If I click on that you can see that is in fact the table in question.
So, what I'm going to do is go to the Order pane and open up the Reading Order panel and then I'm going to click on this table and click on the Table Editor button. Now I'm going to go ahead and make some room here, zoom in so we can see this a little bit better. So, the regularity problem is because all of these merged cells that we have in here. For example, the top cell, I'm going to click on that, right-click and choose Table Cell Properties, and we're going to set the column span to four. If I click OK we're going to get a warning but we're going to go ahead and just say Yes here.
And now that cell is being set to span all four columns. How do I know to set it to four? Well, you look at the rows that have the maximum number of columns and those would be the rows right here. For example, the HMO and PPO cells, we're going to set them to span two columns. Go ahead and click OK. Do the same thing over here. Now the table editor is not the best at displaying where the spans are located.
You can see here that this is now looking like it's spanning three columns but you really just have to know that you entered the correct number and have a little confidence that it's going to render correctly. I'm going to click on this cell over here, go to Table Cell Properties and set that span to two as well. Now moving on down, all of these red cells I'm going to set to span four, including the bottom one. These two I'm going to set to span two cells and then these three I'm going to set to span three.
Okay, so I'm going to go ahead and apply that now. Okay, now I'm going to go ahead and do a Save As on this and I'm going to save this as Complex Tables_Finish. We'll go ahead and save that and I now want to go ahead and rerun the Accessibility Checker.
Now you can see our regularity under tables has now passed. That's because we properly set the spans. Now, one of the other issues here is that in Word this table was designed as one single table. But you could argue that this should really be four separate tables because we probably want this top row, all of them to be headers. Now, you don't have to redesign it if you don't want to. Although, it does require some manual remediation.
Ideally, in Word I would break this into four separate tables. However, you can fix that after the fact inside of Acrobat. So, what I'm going to do here is I'm going to grab my Selection Tool and I'm going to highlight this text that says Dental Insurance, go to the Tags pane and choose Find Tag from selection so I can see where this is located. Now what I'm going to do is I'm going to create three new tables. I'm going to go ahead and click on this paragraph tag up here, right-click and say New Tag and create a table.
Click OK and now we have an empty table here. Now I'm going to create two more. Okay, so now I have a total of three tables. Now I'm going to move the table that has all the content to the top of this list. Now what I'm going to do is I'm going to select all of the rows for the Dental Insurance table. I'm just going to select all four of these rows and I'm going to move them down here into this second table. Then I'm going to grab these two rows, move them into the third table and then these last two rows into the fourth table.
Now, what you can further do is if you go into the second table, this should be a header cell. So I'm going to change this to a table header, and I'm going to repeat that process for the other tables as well. The benefit here is that visually, it looks exactly the same as it did before. But structurally this is now formatted as four separate tables, each one with its own header.
And you'll notice it if I rerun the full check all of my table issues still pass because I've structured it correctly in the Tags pane. So, there's no right or wrong answer here. Just some suggestions on how to approach the situation. Hopefully you've learned some techniques that will assist you in dealing with complex tables in your own projects.
- Working with merged cells in a table
- Adding a table summary
- Making scanned PDFs accessible
- Securing accessible PDFs
- Working with text boxes in Microsoft Word
- Adding and remediating footnotes