InDesign Tables

InDesign’s options for accessible tables are limited. In an ideal world, InDesign would allow you to add column headers, row headers, and create complex tables with multiple levels of headers. Of all of those, InDesign can do only one of them: add column headers. The table below is an example of the type of table you can create in InDesign:

Table of test scores with column headers of midterm exam and final exam.

If you need to create a two-dimensional table, for example by adding the names of the people to whom the test scores belong, there is no way in InDesign to designate the first cells in each row as row headers.

Table of test scores with column headers of midterm exam and final exam. This table also has row headers with names listed beside each set of scores.

If you needed to create a table like this, you can still create the table in InDesign, but you would need to add the extra accessibility markup for the row headers after exporting to other formats. You would need to edit the tags in Acrobat Pro for PDF files, or in the HTML code for web pages or EPUB files.

  1. To create a table in InDesign, select Table > Create Table.
    Screenshot of the table menu
  2. This brings up a dialog that asks how many rows and columns you want in the table. The important part for accessibility is that it asks you to designate one or more header rows.
    Screenshot of the table dialog

    In case you’re curious, adding multiple header rows will create multiple rows of legitimate header cells, but it will not allow you to create row headers. Even the multiple rows of header cells are somewhat problematic, though, because InDesign can’t designate column groups (colgroup in HTML), so if you merge cells, as you usually would in the top header row, the markup will still not be correct.
  3. After you click the OK button in the dialog, InDesign will change the mouse pointer to show a miniature table.
    The miniature table that is shown when after you click the OK button.
  4. Click in the document on the location where you want to place the table.

Exporting to PDF Preserves the Column Headers

With a row of headers in the table, InDesign will create a THEAD tag around the row, and each cell will be designated as TH cells, which is exactly what you want in PDF format.

Exporting to HTML Strips the Column Header Markup

When you export to HTML, InDesign does not preserve the table column markup, so unfortunately you will need to add it again in HTML after exporting the document. Remember, InDesign is not the ideal tool for creating HTML documents.