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Accessibility Error: Table header cell is missing a header role

Monday, June 03, 2024

Table headers

Table headers are cells in row across the top or along the side of a table. Table headers establish the relationship between the table cells within the rows and/or columns helping to explain the data within each individual cell.

Example of a simple table using table headers across the top:

Toy Shape Color
Ball circle blue
Puzzle rectagle multi-color
Tennis raquet oval wood

What does the "Table header cell is missing a header role" mean?

This issue relates to the use of a screen reader. The scope attribute is missing on the table header.

Siteimprove explanation icon noting that this site opens in a new tab/window

Why this fix is important

When using a screen reader and navigating through a table, each table cell is read aloud along with the relevant column and/or row header. In the table above, if using a screen reader and tabbing to the word "puzzle," the screen reader would announce the header: "puzzle" along with the header "Toy."

To ensure the relationship of each table cell and it's table header, a table header cell should always have the role of columnheader or rowheader to help establish the relationship of the cells in the table.

How to add the "header role"

  • In the WYSIWYG editor, place your cursor in the table header
  • Click the table dropdown on the WYSIWYG menu
  • select Cell
  • Select Cell Properties
    screen shot displaying the WYSIWYG table menu icon and its menu 
  • The Cell Properties window open
  • Make sure "Cell Type" is set to "Header Cell" and set Scope to Row or Column
    screen shot displaying the popup table cell properties
  • once set, click the save button
  • publish your content
  • re-run the page check in Siteimprove to verify that this issue is now resolved