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Canvas@Illinois, Table Captions, Headers, and Scope

An explanation about how the Canvas Accessibility Checker can fix missing table elements.

Table Captions, Headers, and Scope

The Canvas Accessibility Checker will flag missing table captions, headers, and scope. Here’s what you need to know about these important table features and how to fix them using the Canvas Accessibility Checker.

Table Captions

A table caption is essentially a concise title that describes what the table is about. This helps all learners grasp the purpose of the table at a glance.

Checker: If your table is missing a caption, the Accessibility Checker will prompt you with an “Add a Caption” field where you can type in the table caption.

Table Headers

Think of table headers as the signposts in your table that provide a frame of reference that helps students understand what the data in each cell represents. In Canvas, you can designate headers for your rows and/or columns. Screen readers and other text-to-speech assistive technology can use these headers to provide context for the data in any data cell of the table.

Checker: If your table is missing headers, the Accessibility Checker will prompt you with a “Set Table Header” dropdown menu where you can add headers by selecting, “header row,” “header column,” or “header and column.”


Scope defines the relationship between the header cells and the data cells. It’s what helps a screen reader user know if a header applies to a row or a column.

Checker: When you use the checker to add header rows or columns, the checker automatically sets the scope for your table. How’s that for easy!

Other Table Accessibility Issues

Complex Tables

While it’s tempting to create complex tables with merged cells to show more intricate data relationships, it’s better to avoid spanned cells if possible. In many cases, you can break up a complex table into two or more simple tables. A simple data table is one where each cell corresponds with only one column header and one row header.

Tables Used for Layout

Tables should be used for presenting tabular data. Using multi-column tables for page content layout and positioning can confuse screen readers and make your content harder to navigate. It can also introduce potential design issues for responsive layout where your layout might look different from what you intended on a tablet, mobile device, or different desktop screen resolutions. The good news is you can use the Canvas image tool to easily position images and text!

Keywordsaccessibility, accessible, tip, tip of the month, newsletter   Doc ID137979
OwnerGaby V.GroupUniversity of Illinois Technology Services
Created2024-06-18 09:32:54Updated2024-06-26 16:52:20
SitesUniversity of Illinois Technology Services
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