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Technique H39:Using caption elements to associate data table captions with data tables

About this Technique

This technique relates to 1.3.1: Info and Relationships (Sufficient when used for making information and relationships conveyed through presentation programmatically determinable).

This technique applies to HTML data tables.


The objective of this technique is to programmatically associate captions for data tables where captions are provided in the presentation. The caption for a table is a table identifier and acts like a title or heading for the table.

The caption element is the appropriate markup for such text and it ensures that the table identifier remains associated with the table, including visually (by default). In addition, using the caption element allows screen reading software to navigate directly to the caption for a table if one is present.


Although WCAG 2 does not prohibit the use of layout tables, CSS-based layouts are recommended in order to retain the defined semantic meaning of the HTML table elements and to conform to the coding practice of separating presentation from content. If a table is used for layout, the caption element is not used. The purpose of a layout table is simply to control the placement of content; the table itself is "transparent" to the user. A caption would "break" this transparency by calling attention to the table. See F46 for details.


Example 1: An appointment calendar with a caption

  <caption>Schedule for the week of March 6</caption>

Related Resources

No endorsement implied.



For each data table:

  1. Check that the table has content that is presented as a table caption.
  2. Check that the table includes a caption element.
  3. Check that the content of the caption element identifies the table.

Expected Results

  • #1, #2, and #3 are true.
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