Email table attributes

Why Should I Set My Table Role As ‘Presentation’?


There are many pieces to an accessible email, with each piece coming together to create a message that is easy to read and understand for every subscriber.

Of all the accessible checks you should do on your email, though, there is one that will arguably make the biggest difference for subscribers with vision problems: adjusting the table role to “presentation.” This quick fix can make a world of difference for email subscribers using screen readers.

Because it is one of the most important pieces of accessible email code, we’ve included a step in our new Campaign Precheck that checks for table roles. The tool will scan your email tables and make sure they are set correctly to “presentation.” If they’re not, the app will make the fix for you.

The Code

To make your tables accessible, you’ll need to adjust the code for your tables, which is in the body of the email. You’ll need to add the following code to each table:

role="presentation"

Within your table code, this will look like:

<table width="100%" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" style="min-width: 100%;" role="presentation">

Why Are Table Roles Important for Accessibility?

Many people with visual impairments use assistive technologies, like screen readers, to read their emails aloud. Users with temporary disabilities (such as broken hands, hospitalization etc.) may also use these technologies to read back an email.

Setting table roles to “presentation” uses Assistive Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) to tell screen readers how to interpret the table, so it can read it in a way that makes sense for the subscriber.

If the tables are not set to “presentation,” the screen reader will interpret the table as data, which means it will read out the HTML code to the user. Here’s an example of what this can sound like (taken from a recent accessibility webinar we hosted with Net Atlantic):

Not pleasant, right? It’s an email experience that is certainly less than ideal. However, if you set the tables to “presentation,” the screen reader will read out the content in the table:

It’s worth noting that if you’re using a table for showing data you should leave this setting off those specific tables, as you still want them to be read as data tables.

This Is Only the Beginning

As we mentioned earlier, table roles are just one piece to the email accessibility puzzle. There are many other steps to make your email truly accessible for users with disabilities or visual impairments. We recommend checking out these posts to learn more about creating accessible emails:

Ready to jump in? Email on Acid’s new Campaign Precheck tool walks you through nine crucial steps to email accessibility and will adjust your HTML code for you within the app. Learn more or give it a try today.

Author: Melanie Graham

2 thoughts on “Why Should I Set My Table Role As ‘Presentation’?”

    1. Hi Marjolein –
      Our tool adds them to every table – it shouldn’t hurt the email at all and won’t affect renderability.

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