Creating accessible Excel workbooks

This article offers best practices for creating an Excel workbook that is more accessible to people with disabilities.

Tip:  Starting with Microsoft Office 2010 a tool for Excel, Word, and PowerPoint called the Accessibility Checker is available that you can use to check your Excel worksheets for any issues that might make it challenging for a user with a disability. To learn more, see Check for accessibility issues in Office 2016.

In this article

Create an accessible file name

Add alternative text to images and objects

Specify column header information in Excel tables

Use hyperlink text that is meaningful

Give all sheet tabs unique names

Include closed captions for any audio or video

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Create an accessible file name

It's a good idea to give your file a meaningful name. This makes the file easier to find when someone searches for it, or scans a long list of files.

  • Give your file a name that provides a clue about the contents. For example, these file names provide good information:

    • SalesEstimateLidmanHouse

    • SaraDavid_SelfAssessment

  • Add a date to the file name, so people can easily determine when the document was created:

    • DailySalesActivity_Feb02_2015

    • SaraDavid_SelfAssessment_2013

Add alternative text to images and objects

Alternative text, also known as alt text or Alt Text, appears when you move your pointer over a picture or object, and helps people that use screen readers to understand the content of images in your file. For many readers, this is the only information they will have about the images and objects in your file. Alt text should be included for any of the following objects in your workbook:

  • Pictures, Clip art, SmartArt graphics, and Shapes that don’t contain text and are not in groups

  • Charts, tables, and pivot tables

  • Groups (all objects in this list, with the exception of shapes, should also have alt text when in groups)

  • Embedded objects

  • Ink

  • Video and audio files

Add alt text by doing the following:

  1. Right click the image or object, and then click Format object.

Note: The Format menu item might vary according to the kind of image. For example, the menu item for a picture is Format Picture, and for a shape, it is Format Shape. For tables, click Tables.

  1. Click Alt Text.

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

Tip:  Use clear, but concise descriptions. For example, “a red Ferrari” tells the reader more about the image than “a car.”

  1. Click Close.

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

In addition to adding alt text that describes the table, it's important to specify a header row and to write clear column headings. This can help everyone understand what's in the table. For example, a column of a hundred numbers means much more with the heading "Median home price". The header row is equally important in a less visible way -- screen readers use information in the header row to identify rows and columns.

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

  1. Click anywhere in the table.

  2. On the Table Tools Design tab, in the Table Style Options group, select the Header Row check box.

  3. Type in column headings that help people know what information the column holds.

To specify a header row in a new block of cells you are marking as table, do the following:

  1. Highlight the cells you want to include in the table.

  2. On the Insert tab, in the Tables group, click Table.

  3. Select the My table has headers check box.

  4. Click OK.

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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 http://www.mikefixescarsforyou.com

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. On the Insert tab, in the Links group, click Hyperlink to open the Insert hyperlink dialog box.

  3. In the Text to display box, type the name or phrase that will briefly describe the link destination.

  4. In the Address box, type the link URL.

  5. Click OK.

To change the text of a hyperlink, do the following:

  1. Select the link, and then, on the Insert tab, in the Links group, click Hyperlink to open the Insert hyperlink dialog box.

  2. In the Text to display box, make any necessary changes to the text.

  3. Click OK.

Additionally, you can include ScreenTip text that appears when your cursor hovers over a hyperlink, and can be used in a similar way to alt text. To add ScreenTip text, do the following:

  1. Place your cursor in the hyperlink you want to add ScreenTip text to.

  2. On the Insert tab, in the Links group, click Hyperlink to open the Hyperlink dialog box.

  3. Click ScreenTip.

  4. Type in your text in the ScreenTip text box.

  5. Click OK.

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

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

To delete a sheet, do the following:

  • Right click the sheet tab, and then click Delete.

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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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