This technique relates to:
The objective of this technique is to describe how using white space characters, such as space, tab, line break, or carriage return, to format tables in text content is a failure to use structure properly. When tables are created in this manner there is no way to indicate that a cell is intended to be a header cell, no way to associate the table header cells with the table data cells, or to navigate directly to a particular cell in a table.
In addition, assistive technologies will interpret content in the reading order of the current language. Using white space to organize data in a visual table does not provide the information in a natural reading order in the source of the document. Thus, the assistive technology user will not be presented with the information in a logical reading order.
Plain text is not suitable for displaying complex information like tables because the structure of the table cannot be perceived. Rather than using visual formatting to represent tabular relations, tabular information would need to be presented using a different technology or presented linearly. (See Presenting tabular information in plain text)
The following example incorrectly uses white space to format a Menu as a visual table.
Menu Breakfast Lunch Dinner Monday 2 fried eggs tomato soup garden salad bacon hamburger Fried Chicken toast onion rings green beans Oatmeal cookie mashed potatoes Tuesday Pancakes vegetable soup Caesar salad sausage hot dogs Spaghetti with meatballs orange juice potato salad Italian bread brownie ice cream
If this table was to be interpreted and spoken by a screen reader it would speak the following lines:
- Breakfast Lunch Dinner
- Monday 2 fried eggs tomato soup garden salad
- bacon hamburger Fried Chicken
- toast onion rings green beans
- Oatmeal cookie mashed potatoes
This reading order does not make sense since there is no structure in the table for the assistive technology to identify it as a table. If the text were reflowed, or changed from a fixed to a variable font, or increased in size until lines no longer fit on the page, similar issues would arise in the visual presentation.
- Examine the document for visually formatted tables.
- Check whether the tables are created using white space characters to layout the tabular data.
- If step #2 is true, then this failure condition applies and the content fails these Success Criteria.