Re: Merged cells in tables


Very helpful and understandable. Thank you.


From: [] On Behalf Of Chris Mullins
Sent: Thursday, January 25, 2018 12:39 PM
Subject: Re: [nvda] Merged cells in tables


Hi Tonea

Screen readers tend to have a set of keystrokes for navigating tables.  In both NVDA and Jaws we hold down the Control and alt keys, then use up./down/left/right to move one cell in that direction and verbalise the cell content.  Using tab in ms Word will traverse a table lef to right, top to bottom but if you press tab when on the bottom right cell, a new row is inserted.  This is great when building tables but not good when trying to red them.  This tabbing behaviour occurs in Word but does not work when I was reding your sample tables in Outlook.  The first sample table read fine using Control+alt+arrow commands but I struggled with the one containing merged cells in that only the first row behaves as if it has 3 columns so I can only move down columns 2 and 3.  This is because merged cells are referenced by top/leftmost co-ordinates in the merged cell range.  For example if I am positioned on row 2 column 2 and I press control+alt+left arrow, I go back to row 1 column 1, so lose my position in the table.


My personal opinion is that the guidance you read is still good and avoiding merged cells in  tables is preferable in accessibility terms.  In your example, having a heading of “Actions agreed upon”, followed by a 3 row/2 column table of data would give you an accessible alternative.   








From: [] On Behalf Of tonea.ctr.morrow@...
Sent: 25 January 2018 16:31
Subject: [nvda] Merged cells in tables


I don’t think this is a screen reader question, I think it is a perception question.


I don’t remember where I saw it, but some guidance somewhere said that accessibility means don’t merge cells in tables. I wanted to know if that was outdated or still a good idea.


Here’s an example of a plain table without any merged cells. It is 3 rows and 3 columns. This was composed in Outlook, so it let me specify a header row, but not the headers for each row…

Ice Cream


Whipped Cream








Here’s an example of a table with merged cells. Again, it is 3 rows and 3 columns, but this time the 3 cells in the first column have been merged into one large cell. Again, a header row is specified.

Actions Agreed Upon




Write a formal letter of praise


Email all members with the good news


When I tab through, as MS Word says to do, then the merged cell is the first cell for each row. It read as:

Actions Agreed Upon, Who, What

Actions Agreed Upon, Mary, Write a formal letter of praise

Actions Agreed Upon, John, Email all members with the good news


If that is the way people understand it, then I think that would be fine. I just need to know if anyone wants to weigh in on tables and organization and accessibility.






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