Techniques for WCAG 2.0

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H63: Using the scope attribute to associate header cells and data cells in data tables



This technique relates to:

User Agent and Assistive Technology Support Notes

The row and col values of the scope attribute are currently supported to a large extent by most current versions of JAWS. However, there are still some problems and WindowEyes support for scope is inconsistent. The same is true for Japanese versions of these screen readers. Versions of JAWS prior to version 5 and older versions of Window-Eyes have inconsistent support for scope.

At the current time, those who want to ensure consistent support across Assistive Technologies for tables where the headers are not in the first row/column may want to use the technique for complex tables H43: Using id and headers attributes to associate data cells with header cells in data tables. For simple tables that have headers in the first column or row we recommend the use of the th and td elements.


The objective of this technique is to associate header cells with data cells in complex tables using the scope attribute. The scope attribute may be used to clarify the scope of any cell used as a header. The scope identifies whether the cell is a header for a row, column, or group of rows or columns. The values row, col, rowgroup, and colgroup identify these possible scopes respectively.

For simple data tables where the header is not in the first row or column, like the one in Example 1, this technique can be used. Based on screen reader support today, its use is suggested in two situations both relating to simple tables: :

Note 1: For simple tables that have the headers in the first row or column then it is sufficient to simply use the TH elements without scope.

Note 2: For complex tables use ids and headers as in H43: Using id and headers attributes to associate data cells with header cells in data tables.

Note 3: Some users may find it easier to work with several simple tables than one more complex table. Authors may wish to consider whether they can convert complex tables to one or more simple tables.


Example 1: A simple schedule

In the following example, column #1 contains serial numbers for rows in the table and the second column contains the key value for the row. The cells in the second column may then use scope="row". The cells in the first row too are marked up with td and use scope="col".

Example Code:

 <table border="1">
  <caption>Contact Information</caption>
    <th scope="col">Name</th>
    <th scope="col">Phone#</th>
    <th scope="col">Fax#</th>
    <th scope="col">City</th>
    <th scope="row">Joel Garner</th>
    <th scope="row">Clive Lloyd</th>
    <th scope="row">Gordon Greenidge</th>


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For each data table:

  1. Check that all th elements have a scope attribute.

  2. Check that all td elements that act as headers for other elements have a scope attribute.

  3. Check that all scope attributes have the value row, col, rowgroup, or colgroup.

Expected Results

If this is a sufficient technique for a success criterion, failing this test procedure does not necessarily mean that the success criterion has not been satisfied in some other way, only that this technique has not been successfully implemented and can not be used to claim conformance.

Techniques are Informative

Techniques are informative—that means they are not required. The basis for determining conformance to WCAG 2.0 is the success criteria from the WCAG 2.0 standard—not the techniques. For important information about techniques, please see the Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria section of Understanding WCAG 2.0.