We recently received the following question from a client:
Hey Syllabus Geeks! Quick question: If an instructor copies and pastes a table, or other content, from a Microsoft Word document, does the Concourse syllabus still keep its ADA accessibility intact?
We thought other folks may be wondering the same thing, so we decided to post our answer here for your consideration:
Hey there! This is a great question, and it first starts with just what accessible tables mean regardless of the platform. Here's a good article to get the discussion started: https://webaim.org/techniques/tables/data
In general, an accessible table is one that:
a. Has a defined header
b. Includes a caption
c. Is "simple" (more on this at the end).
Before we get to what features would be maintained when copying and pasting in to Concourse, let's return to what most authors do with Word. While it is possible to make accessible tables in Word, almost no one ever does. For example, how many tables in Word do have you seen where the header is actually defined as a header? Does the author simply make the first row and/or column bold? If the table is even given a title/caption/summary, is it programatically identified (i.e. related to) with the table, or is it just a new line before or after the table itself? There likely also be empty cells as it is hard to distinguish from a cell that should be absent versus empty. And forget about merged cells...
Let's say, however, you have a master Word designer and they take these steps. We are skeptical that the features would even translate. Word uses a proprietary format while Concourse consumes HTML. In other words, if someone creates a header in Word, we can't say for sure whether or not it would in fact produce the appropriate <th> tags. What we can say, though, is that copying from an accessible HTML source, including importing from another Concourse syllabus, would ensure that such features would be maintained.
Now back to the "simple" suggestion. The best piece of advice here is to keep the table straightforward as possible. That may mean breaking a table up in to multiple to avoid the need for multi-tier headers or merged cells. Even the use of column headers is difficult since these then need to be scoped.
As a final note, tables should never be used purely for layout purposes (nor 4 dozen spaces or tabs). In practice, tables are difficult at best to make accessible, but the best piece advice we can provide is to start with and maintain simple HTML using a single header row. This will yield the most accessible results. In Concourse, access to these, and all table features, is done by right-clicking on the table and going through the various options.
We know that might be more of an answer than you bargained for, but hopefully it sheds a lot of light on the topic. Please let us know if you or your faculty have any further questions.
-The Syllabus Geeks
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