Creating Accessible Excel Documents

1. Images, Charts and Graphics

  • Images, Charts and Graphics included in a worksheet need to have alternative text. Otherwise these items will not be perceived, nor properly understood by persons who have visual disabilities.
  • Alternative text is read by screen readers allowing the content and function of these images, charts or graphics to be accessible to those with visual or certain cognitive disabilities.
  • To add alternative text (Alt text) to an image, chart or graphic – Right Click (Shift+F10) on the image, click Format, choose Alt Text.
  • Add Alternate text to your table. First Right Click (Shift+F10) anywhere within the table. Select ‘Table’, then ‘Alternative Text’.

2. Specifiy Column header Info to your table.

  • Having clear column headings can help provide context and assist navigation of the table’s contents.
  • To specify a header row in a new block of cells:
    • Highlight the cells to be included in the table.
    • On the Insert tab, in the Tables group, click Table.
    • Select the My table has headers check box.
    • Click OK.
  • To specify a header row in a block of cells marked as a table:
    • Click anywhere in the table.
    • On the Table Tools Design tab, in the Table Style Options group, select the Header Row check box.
    • Add header information

3. Add Hyperlinks

  • Hyperlink text provides a clear description of the link destination, rather than providing either the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or simply words such as, ‘Click Here’.
  • People who utilize screen reading software can navigate by going from ‘link’ to ‘link’. Meaningful text enables them to know what each link is for, and where it will take them.
  • To add a hyperlink to a table:
    • Place the cursor in the cell where the hyperlink is to be added.
    • In the Insert tab, in the Links group, click on Hyperlink and a dialog box will open.
    • In the Text to Display box, type in the name or phrase that briefly describes the link destination. If the content of the cell is numeric, the Text to Display box will remain blank.
    • In the Address box, type the URL. Click OK

4. ScreenTips

  • Another option in Excel is to add a ScreenTip to a hyperlink. When focusing on a cell that includes a hyperlink, a Screen Reader will read the ScreenTip in a similar way it reads Alt Text. This is a helpful way to make hyperlinks more meaningful, especially when dealing with numbers in an Excel Worksheet and not text.
  • To add a ScreenTip:
    • Place focus in the cell with the hyperlink.
    • On the Insert tab, in the Links group, click Hyperlink to open the Hyperlink dialog box.
    • Click ScreenTip.
    • Type text in the ScreenTip text box.
    • Click OK.

5. What to Avoid

  • Avoid Blank Cells, Rows and Columns. When navigating by keyboard a blank row, column or cell within an Excel worksheet might lead someone to believe there is nothing more in the table. Simply delete any blank cells, rows and columns that are not necessary.
  • Do Not Merge or Split Cells Merging or Splitting cells can make navigating Excel tables with Assistive Technologies very difficult if not impossible. Always keep your tables straightforward and simple and avoid this practice.

6. Sheet names

  • Give all sheet tabs unique names. Sheet names in an Excel file should be unique and provide information about what can be found on the worksheet. Unique sheet names make it easier to navigate through a workbook. Any blank sheets in a workbook should be deleted.
  • To rename a sheet:
    • Right-click (Shift+F10) the sheet tab, and then click Rename.
    • Type a brief, unique name that is descriptive of the sheet contents.
  • To delete a sheet:
    • Right click (Shift+F10) the sheet tab, and then click Delete

7. Accessibility Checker

  • Perform a test of the document’s accessibility prior to distributing it either via email or by posting it to the internet. Use a screen reader such as JAWS, NVDA, WindowEyes, etc.  Microsoft Excel also has a built-in accessibility feature.
  • However, do not rely on ‘machine’ testing alone to test for accessibility.
  • To access the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft Excel: In the File tab, click on Info, Check for Issues, and then Check Accessibility.