Data or header cells must not be used to give caption to a data table.

Rule ID: table-fake-caption
Ruleset: axe-core 4.8
User Impact: Serious
Guidelines: WCAG 2.1 Experimental, WCAG 2.0 Experimental, Section 508, EN 301 549

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Compliance Data & Impact

User Impact


Disabilities Affected

  • Blind
  • Deafblind


  • WCAG 2.1 Experimental
  • WCAG 2.0 Experimental
  • Section 508
  • EN 301 549

WCAG Success Criteria [WCAG 2.1 Experimental]

  • 1.3.1: MUST: Info and Relationships

WCAG Success Criteria [WCAG 2.0 Experimental]

  • 1.3.1: MUST: Info and Relationships

Section 508 Guidelines

  • 1194.22: MUST: Web based intranet and Internet Information & Applications
  • 1194.22 (g): MUST: Row and column headers shall be identified for data tables.” and “(h) Markup shall be used to associate data cells and header cells for data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers.

    How to Fix the Problem

    To fix the problem, ensure the table uses an actual caption element instead of cells with a colspan element to visually indicate a caption.

    To ensure screen reader users can make sense of tabular data, use the caption element for an onscreen title.

    Example: Simple data table with a caption element

    <table class="data">
          Greensprings Running Club Personal Bests
    Greensprings Running Club Personal Bests
          <th scope="col">Name</th>
          <th scope="col">1 mile</th>
          <th scope="col">5 km</th>
          <th scope="col">10 km</th>
          <th scope="row">Mary</th>
          <th scope="row">Betsy</th>
          <th scope="row">Matt</th>
          <th scope="row">Todd</th>

    Why it Matters

    Screen readers have a specific way of announcing tables. When tables are not properly marked up, this creates the opportunity for confusing or inaccurate screen reader output.

    When tables are not marked up with an actual caption element instead of using a colspan element on cells to visually indicate a caption, screen reader users cannot correctly perceive the purpose of the table visually.

    Rule Description

    Data table markup can be tedious and confusing. Screen readers have some features to ease table navigation, but tables must be marked up accurately for these features to work correctly. Some tables use cells with a colspan element to visually indicate a caption, instead of using an actual caption element.

    The Algorithm (in simple terms)

    Checks that data tables are marked up with table cells that use a colspan element to indicate a caption visually.


    Refer to the complete list of axe 4.8 rules.

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