Microsoft Excel Accessibility

Accessibility Spreadsheet Checking

Performing Manual Checks

  1. Setting the Document Language

    In order for assistive technologies (IE. screen readers) to be able to present your document accurately, it is important to indicate the natural language of the document. If a different natural language is used for a paragraph or selected text, this also needs to be clearly indicated.
    Change the Default Language for a Workbook
    • Go to menu item File
    • Select Options from the list in the left window pane.
    • Select Language from the list in the left of the Options dialog.
    • Under Choose Editing Languages, select the editing language you want to use.
    • Select Set as Default
    • Close programs and open them again for the changes to take effect.
  2. Text Alternatives for Images and Graphical Objects

    When using images or other graphical objects, such as charts and graphs, it is important to ensure that the information you intend to convey by the image is also conveyed to people who cannot see the image. This can be accomplished by adding concise alternative text to each image. If an image is too complicated to concisely describe in the alternative text alone (art work, flow charts, etc.), provide a short text alternative and a longer description as well.
    Writing alternative text
    • If the image does not convey any useful information, leave the alternative text blank .
    • If the image contains meaningful text, ensure all of the text is replicated.
    • The Alternative text should be fairly short, usually a sentence or less and rarely more than two sentences .
    • If more description is required (IE. for a chart or graph), provide a short description in the alternative text and more detail in the long description.
    • Alternatively, you can include the same information conveyed by the image within the body of the document, providing the images as an alternate to the text. In that case, you do not have to provide alternate text within the image.
    Add alternative text to images and graphical objects
    • Right-click the object.
    • Select Format Picture.
    • Select the Alt Text option from the list.
    • Fill in the description.
  3. Format The Cells

    As you begin adding content, your spreadsheet will require structuring to bring meaning to the data, make it easier to navigate, and help assistive technologies read it accurately. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ensure that you properly format the cells.
    Named Styles
    Make use of the named styles that are included with the office application (IE. Heading, Result, etc.) before creating your own styles. Named styles help your readers understand why something was formatted in a given way, which is especially helpful when there are multiple reasons for the same formatting (IE. it is common to use italics for emphasis). Formatting header and result cells brings order to the spreadsheet and makes it easier for users to navigate effectively. For example, you can format header rows and columns using Heading Styles to apply bolded, enlarged, and italicized text (among other characteristics). You may also want to format cells containing results of calculations to appear bold and underlined to help distinguish them from the rest of your data.
    • Highlight the cells that you want to format.
    • Go to menu item Home.
    • In the Styles section, select the Cell Styles icon.
    • Select the desired formatting style from the drop-down menu.
    Other Cell Characteristics
    Ensure your cells are formatted to properly represent your data, including number and text attributes.
    • Highlight the cells that you want to format.
    • Go to menu item Home.
    • In the relevant sections (IE. Numbers, Font, etc.) make your adjustments.
    • Note: When formatting your spreadsheet, it is best to avoid merging cells. At times, it may seem easier to present your data by merging cells, but this can make it more difficult for users of assistive technologies and people navigating your spreadsheet using the keyboard.
    Use Cell Addressing To Define Names
    Naming the different data ranges within your spreadsheet makes it easier to navigate through the document and find specific information. It can also be use as a navigation. When using the shortcut Ctrl + G a dialog box will open and layout all the names define in the cells. When selected and the OK button is pressed it will navigate to the located place. By associating a meaningful name to a data range, you will be enhancing the readability of your document. These named ranges can be referenced in multiple locations of your document and within calculations and equations.
    • Highlight the cells you would like to name.
    • Go to menu item Formulas.
    • In the Defined Names section, select the Define Name button.
    • In the Name text box, enter the name for the data range.
    • In the Scope drop-down list, select scope within which the name can be referenced.
    • Select OK.
  4. Create Accessible Charts

    Charts can be used to make data more understandable for some audiences. However, it is important to ensure that your chart is as accessible as possible to all members of your audience. All basic accessibility considerations that are applied to the rest of your document must also be applied to your charts and the elements within your charts. For example, use shape and colour, rather than colour alone, to convey information. As well, some further steps should be taken to ensure that the contents are your chart are appropriate labeled to give users reference points that will help them to correctly interpret the information.
    To create a chart
    • Select the data that you want to include in the chart.
    • Go to menu item Insert.
    • In the Charts section, select the icon of the type of chart you would like to insert.
    • Select a Chart Type from the Chart Gallery in the drop-down menu.
    To add titles and labels
    • In the Chart Tools menu section, go to menu item Layout.
    • In the Labels section, select the type of title or label you would like to define (IE. Chart Title, Axis Titles, Data Labels).
    • Note: It is a good idea to use as many of the titles and labels available in this section as possible.
    To apply alternative text to a chart
    • Right-click the chart.
    • Note: Make sure you are right-clicking the whole chart, not just an element within the chart. It is possible to add descriptions to the many elements that make up a chart, but this is not recommended.
    • In the Format Chart Area dialog, select Alt Text.
    • Enter a Title in the Title box.
    • Enter a longer description of the chart contents in the Description box.
    • Select Close.
  5. Make Content Easier To See

    Avoid Floating Objects
    Avoid placing drawing objects directly into the document (IE. as borders, to create a diagram). Instead, create borders with page layout tools and insert complete graphical objects.
    Format Of Text
    • When formatting text Use font sizes between 12 and 18 points for cell contents.
    • Use fonts of normal weight, rather than bold or light weight fonts. If you do choose to use bold fonts for emphasis, use them sparingly.
    • Use standard fonts with clear spacing and easily recognized upper and lower case characters. Sans serif fonts (IE. Arial, Verdana) may sometimes be easier to read than serif fonts (IE. Times New Roman, Garamond).
    • Avoid large amounts of text set all in caps, italic or underlined.
    • Use normal or expanded character spacing, rather than condensed spacing.
    • Avoid animated or scrolling text.
    To change the text size for a default named style
    • Go to menu item Home.
    • In the Styles section, select the Cell Styles icon.
    • Select the style to modify from the list.
    • Right-click and select Modify.
    • In the Style dialog, select the Format Button.
    • In the Format Cells dialog, select the Font Tab.
    • In the Size text box, type the desired size or select it from the list.
    • Select OK.
    Use Sufficient Contrast
    The visual presentation of text and images of text should have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. Also, always use a single solid colour for a text background rather than a pattern. In order to determine whether the colours in your document have sufficient contrast. Video demonstration of Effective Colour Contrast - YouTube
    Avoid Using Colour Alone
    Colour should not be used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element.
    Avoid Relying on Sensory Characteristics
    The instructions provided for understanding and operating content should not rely solely on sensory characteristics such as the colour or shape of content elements. Example:
    • Do not track changes by simply changing the colour of text you have edited and noting the colour. Instead use the document Spreadsheet review functionality features to track changes, such as revision history.
    • Do not distinguish between images by referring to their appearance (IE. the bigger one). Instead, label each image with a figure number and use that for references.
    Avoid Using Images of Text
    Before you use an image to control the presentation of text (IE. to ensure a certain font or colour combination), consider whether you can achieve the same result by styling Real Text. If this is not possible, as with logos containing stylized text, make sure to provide alternative text for the image.
  6. Make Content Easier To Understand

    Write Clearly
    By taking the time to design your content in a consistent way, it will be easier to access, navigate and interpret for all users.
    • Whenever possible, write clearly with short sentences.
    • Introduce acronyms and spell out abbreviations.
    • Avoid making the document too Busy by using lots of whitespace and by avoiding too many different colours, fonts and images.
    • If content is repeated on multiple pages within a document or within a set of documents (IE. headings, footings, etc.), it should occur consistently each time it is repeated.
    Navigational Instructions
    Provide a general description of the spreadsheet contents and instructions on how to navigate the data effectively. The best way to do this is to make a cell at the beginning of the data (IE. A1) with this information. It will be the first cell accessed by assistive technologies.
    Use Accessible Templates As A Best Practice
    It is possible to create your own accessible templates from scratch. You can also edit and modify the existing prepackaged templates, ensuring their accessibility as you do so and saving them as a new template.
    • Create a new document
    • Under menu item File select Save As.
    • In the Save as type list, select Excel Template.
    • In the File name box, type a name for the template. Using a descriptive File name. Also, filling in the text box labeled Tags with the term Accessibility will improve its searchability as an accessible file.
    • Select Save.
  7. Sample Spreadsheet

    The Sample Course Information Spreadsheet has two worksheets and includes the following elements:
    • Several paragraphs of Plain Text embedded into the spreadsheet.
    • Data tables.
    • Layout tables of text (used as a calendar).
    • Formulas.
    • Graphs (Line graphs, Pie graphs, Bar graphs).
    • Hyperlinks.
    • Images.

Automated Accessibility Checking

The Accessibility Checker checks your file against a set of possible issues for people who have disabilities might experience in your file. Each issue is classified as:
  1. Error - An error is for content that makes a file very difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to understand.
  2. Warning - A warning is for content that in most, but not all, cases makes a file difficult for people with disabilities to understand.
  3. Tip - A tip is for content that people with disabilities can understand, but that might be better organized or presented in a way that would improve their experience.
    Use the Accessibility Checker:
  1. Under menu item File select Info.
  2. If the Accessibility Checker sees any potential issues, you will see a message next to the Check for Issues Button.
  3. To view and repair the issues in your file, click Check for Issues and then Check Accessibility.
  4. The file reappears, and the Accessibility Checker task pane shows the inspection results.
  5. Click a specific issue to see Additional Information and steps you can take to change the content.

Accessibility Check List

  1. General Requirements for all Documents

    • Does the document file name not contain spaces and/or special characters?
    • Is the document file name concise, generally limited to 20-30 characters, and does it make the contents of the file clear?
    • Have the Document Properties for Title, Author, Subject (AKA Description), Keywords, Language, and Copyright Status been applied?
    • Does the document utilize recommended fonts (IE. Times New Roman, Verdana, Arial, Tahoma, Helvetica, or Calibri)?
    • Have track changes been accepted or rejected and turned off?
    • Have comments been removed and formatting marks been turned off?
    • Does the document refrain from using flashing/flickering text and/or animated text?
    • Is the document free of background images or watermarks?
    • Do all images, grouped images, and nontext elements that convey information have meaningful alternative-text descriptions?
    • Do complex images (E.G., charts and graphs) have descriptive text near the image (perhaps as a caption)?
    • Do all URLs contain descriptive hyperlinks (IE. avoid generic phrases like Click Here and, instead, use phrases that let users know about the content of the linked page prior to selecting it)?
    • Are all URLs linked to correct Web destinations?
    • Are e-mail links accessible?
    • Has a separate accessible version of the document been provided when there is no other way to make the content accessible?
    • If there are tables, are blank cells avoided?
    • Is all of the text easy to read in comparison to the background of the document (E.G., has a colour-contrast ratio of 4.5:1)?
    • Has the document been reviewed in Print Preview for a final visual check?
  2. Formatting Requirements

    • Is the table free of merged cells (recommended if possible)?
    • Do the active worksheets have clear and concise names that allow users (and assistive technology) to identify the table's source and content?
    • Is each table prefixed (titled) with the table name and table number?
    • Does the table header repeat at the top of the table as it goes from one page to another?
    • If colour is used to emphasize important text, is there is an alternate, compliant method used as well?
    • Have all extraneous comments have been removed?
    • Is the document free of text boxes (recommended if possible)?
  3. Charts And Image Requirements

    • Are associated images on the same page, such as boxes in an organizational chart, grouped as one object?
    • Have all multilayered objects been flattened into one image?
    • Do all nontext elements that convey information, including images, have descriptive captions?
    • Do all charts have titles, legends, and axis labels?