InDesign how-to: Tagging long tables in PDF documents

Designers often use InDesign to create PDF documents that contain tabulated data spanning multiple columns or pages. Annual reports, for example, commonly have long tables of financial figures and other data.

We often find that PDF documents with long data tables are incorrectly tagged, and this makes understanding unnecessarily difficult for some users.

In this article you will learn how to create accessible data tables that span multiple pages using InDesign CC and Acrobat Pro DC.

Add table headers in InDesign

Aims

  • Repeat column headers at the top of each column or page for easy reference by sighted users. This may be particularly helpful for people with a cognitive impairment such as short term memory loss.
  • Add table header tags to the PDF export to make the table readable and navigable by screen readers.

Technique

1. Add table

Create a table that spans multiple tables or columns.

Table > Table options > Table setup

My table lists preferences for Vision Australia staff. It has eight columns and 34 data rows with two header rows.

Table Options dialog shows Table Setup tab with 2 header rows, 34 body rows and 8 columns

With 34 rows the table runs across two pages.

2. Table header repeat requirements

In the ‘Headers and Footers’ tab choose whether you want your table column header rows to repeat on each column, each frame or each page. I want my headers to repeat on each page. 

Table Options dialog Headers and Footers tab shows header repeated once per page

Headers are repeated at the top of each page. 

Table spreads over two pages. Table headers are repeated at the top of the second page.

Export as a tagged interactive PDF

That’s all we can do with InDesign, so let’s create the tagged PDF.

Aim

Tag the PDF export so it can be read by people who are blind using a screen reader.

Technique

  • File > Export
  • Choose PDF (interactive)
  • Create a tagged PDF on export.

Artifact duplicate table header tags with Acrobat Pro

Duplicate headers are helpful for sighted users but may be unnecessarily noisy and confusing for people who are blind. Let’s remove repeated header tags.

Aim

Hide repeated table headers from screen readers.

Techniques

Artifact additional headers

Artifacting repeated headers will hide them from screen readers.

  1. Expand the tag tree to expose repeated headers.
     
  2. Expand repeated headers and select all header text.
     
  3. Artifact repeated header content (right-click and select “Change Tag to Artifact”. Artifact type can remain as ‘Page’).
     

Delete empty tags

Select the empty <THead> tag and delete (right-click > Delete Tag).

Drag table row tags into one table

Click and drag table rows <TR> into one <TBody>. 

Delete the empty <TBody> tag.

You will now have a table with one set of header rows and one set of table body rows, even though the table spans multiple pages.

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