Make your workbook more accessible in Excel Online

This article offers help on things that you can do in Excel Online to make workbooks more accessible for people with disabilities. When your workbook is accessible, more people can use it.

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Add alternative text to images and objects

Alternative text (alt text) is text that describes an image, such as a photograph or diagram, or an object, such as a table.

What is alt text, and where do I add it?

Alt text does just what its name says, it offers an alternative, a way that people who can't see an image can understand the essential ideas. Alt text helps ensure that no information is lost.

Alt text is extremely important. It makes sure that your audience is as large as possible, and it's the only information that some people have about an image. It also improves search results, because alt text is available to search engines. Finally, alt text is a minimum requirement for most accessibility laws and regulations.

Alt text is required for any non-text content. This includes any of the following:

  • Pictures, images, and clip art

  • Charts, tables, and embedded objects

  • SmartArt graphics

  • Ink

  • Video and audio files

Add alt text to an image

Add alt text to an image or object by doing the following:

  1. Right click the image or object, and then select Alt Text... to open the Alternative Text dialog box. Focus moves to the Title text box.

  2. Type a short description of the image or object into the Title and Description text boxes.

    Note: Different screen readers handle Title and Description fields differently. To make sure that alt text is useful across the widest range of assistive technology products, we recommend adding information to both Title and Description.

  3. Select OK

Tip:  Use clear, but concise descriptions. For example, “a red Ferrari” tells the reader more about the image than “a car.” Don't inc

To learn more, see Add alternative text to a shape, picture, chart, table, SmartArt graphic, or other object.

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Specify column header information in Excel tables

Column headings help everyone understand what's in the table. For example, a spreadsheet with several columns of a hundred numbers each is very hard to make sense of. If you create headings for each column, then readers can understand what's in the table. In addition, some screen readers can be set up to say the heading aloud when someone navigates to a cell, so they don't have to try to remember what the values in each column are.

The header row is equally important in a less visible way -- screen readers use information in the header row to set up navigation.

To specify a header row in a block of cells, do the following:

  1. Select the data that you want to include. To select a sequence of cells, press Shift+Arrow.

  2. To move the focus to the Home ribbon, press Ctrl+F6 or F6. In Internet Explorer, you'll hear the URL for the page. Then, press the Tab key until you hear, "Home tab", and press Spacebar.

  3. On the Home tab ribbon, press the Tab key until you hear Format as Table, then press Spacebar to open the Create Table dialog box.

  4. You'll hear, "Create Table dialog. Focus is on the OK button. The data in your table is in the following range", and then the cell names for the upper left and lower right cells in the data, such as A1:N17.

    Press Shift+Tab to move focus to the My table has headers check box. Press Spacebar to select this option, and then press the Tab key to move back to the OK button.

  5. Press OK.

  6. Go to the first cell in the top row of your data, and type in a column heading. Press the Right Arrow key to move to the next column.

  7. Type in headings for the remaining columns.

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Use hyperlink text that is meaningful

Hyperlink text should provide a clear description of the link destination, rather than only providing the URL. For example, Mike’s Auto Shop is more meaningful than

To add a hyperlink to your workbook, do the following:

  1. Place the cursor in the cell where you want to add the hyperlink.

  2. To go to the Insert ribbon, press Ctrl+F6 or F6. In Internet Explorer, you'll hear the URL for the page. Then, press the Tab key until you hear, "Insert tab" and press Spacebar.

  3. Press the Tab key until you hear, "Hyperlink button" and then press Enter to open the Insert Hyperlink dialog.

  4. Focus opens in the URL text box. You'll hear, "http://". Type the rest of the URL.

  5. Press the Tab key twice to move to the Display Text box, and type the text that you want to display for the hyperlink. It's a good idea to provide a clear idea of the destination.

  6. Press the Tab key until you reach the OK button, and then press Enter.

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Give all sheet tabs unique names

Sheet names should provide information about what is found on the worksheet, making it easier to navigate through a workbook. Any blank sheets in a workbook should be removed.

To rename a sheet, do the following:

  1. To navigate to a sheet tab, press Ctrl+F6 until you hear "Sheet" and then the number of the sheet. To move to a different sheet tab, press the Tab key.

  2. Right-click the sheet tab, and then click Rename.

  3. Type a brief, unique name that is descriptive of the sheet contents.

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Give the workbook a meaningful file name

Use the Save As dialog to give the workbook a meaningful name. Create a name that provides a hint about what kind of data it contains. If possible, include the date as part of the name.

Include closed captions for any audio or video

If you use additional audio or video components in a workbook, ensure that the content is available in alternative formats for users with disabilities, such as closed captions, transcripts or alt text.

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