Make your Excel spreadsheets accessible

Key best practices for creating Excel spreadsheets can also help you make your spreadsheets accessible to people with disabilities. This topic describes why you should use these best practices and gives you step-by-step instructions for following them.

Excel spreadsheet that includes an income statement and bar chart
People who are blind or have low vision can understand your data more easily if you create your Excel workbooks and charts with accessibility in mind.

For example, people who are blind or have low vision need alternative text (also known as alt text) to help them understand the information that is represented in pictures, shapes, tables, and charts in spreadsheets. The alt text for the table in this spreadsheet could be “Income statement in US dollars including: revenue, gross profit, operating income, profit before tax, and net income.” The alt text for the chart could be something like “Bar chart that shows the income statement in terms of increases and decreases by category.”

Best practices for making Excel spreadsheets accessible

The following table includes key best practices for creating Excel spreadsheets that are accessible to people with disabilities.

What to fix

How to find it

Why fix it

How to fix it

Best practice: Include alternative text with all visuals and tables.

Visual content includes pictures, clip art, SmartArt graphics, shapes, groups, charts, embedded objects, ink, and videos.

Use the Accessibility Checker to find all instances of missing alternative text in the spreadsheet.

Alternative text (also known as alt text) appears when you move your pointer over a picture or object in any file. Screen readers read alt text aloud to people who are blind or have low vision and can help them understand the content of the images in your spreadsheets.

Steps and screenshots

Best practice: Add meaningful hyperlink text and ScreenTips.

Use the Accessibility Checker to determine whether hyperlink text makes sense as standalone information and whether it gives readers accurate information about the destination target.

Hyperlinks that include more than a few words help people better understand context and are easier for people with motion disabilities to select. For example, instead of linking to the text Click here, include the full title of the destination page.

Tip: You can also add ScreenTips that appear when your cursor hovers over a cell that includes a hyperlink.

Steps and screenshots

Best practice: Give all sheet tabs unique names, and remove blank sheets.

Use the Accessibility Checker to find out whether all sheets that contain content in a workbook have descriptive names, and whether there are any blank sheets.

Screen readers read sheet names, which provide information about what is found on the worksheet, making it easier to understand the contents of a workbook and to navigate through it.

Steps and screenshots

Best practice: Use a simple table structure, and specify column header information.

Use the Accessibility Checker to ensure that tables don’t contain split cells, merged cells, nested tables, or completely blank rows or columns.

Screen readers keep track of their location in a table by counting table cells. If a table is nested within another table or if a cell is merged or split, the screen reader loses count and can’t provide helpful information about the table after that point. Blank cells in a table could also mislead someone using a screen reader into thinking that there is nothing more in the table.

Screen readers also use header information to identify rows and columns.

Steps and screenshots

Add alt text to visuals and tables

The following table describes how to add alt text to visuals and tables in your Excel spreadsheets.

Note: When adding alt text, provide a detailed description of the visual or table. For example, when describing an image, the description “A red convertible on a highway next to a beach” is better than “Red car.” For audio and video content, in addition to alt text, include closed captioning for people who are deaf or have limited hearing.

Type of inaccessible content

How to fix it

UI element used to fix it

Images (such as pictures, clip art, and screenshots)

  1. Right-click an image.

  2. Select Format Picture > Size & Properties.

  3. Select Alt Text.

  4. Type a title and description.

Alt Text area of the Format Picture pane

SmartArt graphics

  1. Right-click a SmartArt graphic.

  2. Select Format Object > Shape Options > Size & Properties.

  3. Select Alt Text.

  4. Type a title and description.

Alt Text area of the Format Shape pane

Shapes (including shapes within a SmartArt graphic)

  1. Right-click a shape.

  2. Select Format Shape > Shape Options > Size & Properties.

  3. Select Alt Text.

  4. Type a title and description.

Alt Text area of the Format Shape pane

PivotCharts

  1. Right-click a PivotChart.

  2. Select Format Chart Area > Chart Options > Size & Properties.

  3. Select Alt Text.

  4. Type a title and description.

Alt Text area of the Format Chart Area pane

Tables

  1. Right-click a table.

  2. Select Table > Alternative Text.

  3. Type a title and description.

Alternative Text dialog box

Make hyperlinks, tables, and sheet tabs accessible

The following table describes how to make the hyperlinks, tables, and sheet tabs in your Excel spreadsheets accessible.

Type of inaccessible content

How to fix it

UI element used to fix it

Hyperlink text and ScreenTips

Add hyperlinks and ScreenTips:

  1. Right-click a cell.

  2. Select Hyperlink.

  3. In the Text to display box, type the hyperlink text.

  4. Select the ScreenTip button and, in the ScreenTip text box, type a ScreenTip.

    Tip: If the title on the hyperlink's destination page gives an accurate summary of what’s on the page, use it for the hyperlink text. For example, this hyperlink text matches the title on the destination page: Templates and Themes for Office Online.

Insert Hyperlink dialog box

Tables

Specify a header row in a block of cells marked as a table:

  1. Position the cursor anywhere in a table.

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

  3. Type column headings.

Table Style Options group in the Table Tools Design tab, with check boxes selected

Tables

Specify a header row in a new block of cells you are marking as a table:

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

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

  3. Select the My table has headers check box.

  4. Select OK.

Create Table dialog box, with the My table has headers check box selected

Sheet tabs

Rename a sheet:

  1. Right-click a sheet tab, and select Rename.

  2. Type a brief, unique name for the sheet.

Rename menu item

Sheet tabs

Delete a sheet:

  1. Right-click a sheet tab.

  2. Select Delete.

Delete menu item

Best practices for making Excel spreadsheets accessible

The following table includes key best practices for creating Excel spreadsheets that are accessible to people with disabilities.

Best practice

How to find inaccessible content

Why fix inaccessible content

How to fix it

Include alternative text with all visuals and tables.

Visual content includes pictures, clip art, SmartArt graphics, shapes, groups, charts, embedded objects, ink, and videos.

Use the Accessibility Checker to find missing alternative text.

Alternative text (also known as alt text) appears when you move your pointer over a picture or object in any file. Screen readers read alt text aloud to people who are blind or have low vision and can help them understand the content of the images in your spreadsheets.

Steps and screenshots

Add meaningful hyperlink text and ScreenTips.

Use the Accessibility Checker to determine whether hyperlink text makes sense as standalone information and whether it gives readers accurate information about the destination target.

Hyperlinks that include more than a few words help people better understand context and are easier for people with motion disabilities to select. For example, instead of linking to the text Click here, include the full title of the destination page.

Tip: You can also add ScreenTips that appear when your cursor hovers over a cell that includes a hyperlink.

Steps and screenshots

Give all sheet tabs unique names, and remove blank sheets.

Use the Accessibility Checker to find out whether all sheets that contain content in a workbook have descriptive names, and whether there are any blank sheets.

Screen readers read sheet names, which provide information about what is found on the worksheet, making it easier to understand the contents of a workbook and to navigate through it.

Steps and screenshots

Use a simple table structure, and specify column header information.

Use the Accessibility Checker to ensure that tables don’t contain split cells, merged cells, nested tables, or completely blank rows or columns.

Screen readers keep track of their location in a table by counting table cells. If a table is nested within another table or if a cell is merged or split, the screen reader loses count and can’t provide helpful information about the table after that point. Blank cells in a table could also mislead someone using a screen reader into thinking that there is nothing more in the table.

Screen readers also use header information to identify rows and columns.

Steps and screenshots

Add alt text to visuals and tables

The following table describes how to add alt text to visuals and tables in your Excel spreadsheets.

Note: When adding alt text, provide a detailed description of the visual or table. For example, when describing an image, the description “A red convertible on a highway next to a beach” is better than “Red car.” For audio and video content, in addition to alt text, include closed captioning for people who are deaf or have limited hearing.

Type of inaccessible content

How to fix it

UI element used to fix it

Images (such as pictures, clip art, and screenshots)

  1. Right-click an image.

  2. Select Format Picture > Size & Properties.

  3. Select Alt Text.

  4. Type a title and description.

Alt Text area of the Format Picture pane

SmartArt graphics

  1. Right-click a SmartArt graphic.

  2. Select Format SmartArt > Shape Options > Size & Properties.

  3. Select Alt Text.

  4. Type a title and description.

Alt Text area of the Format Shape pane

Shapes (including shapes within a SmartArt graphic)

  1. Right-click a shape.

  2. Select Format Shape > Shape Options > Size & Properties.

  3. Select Alt Text.

  4. Type a title and description.

Alt Text area of the Format Shape pane

PivotCharts

  1. Right-click a PivotChart.

  2. Select Format Chart Area > Chart Options > Size & Properties.

  3. Select Alt Text.

  4. Type a title and description.

Alt Text area of the Format Chart Area pane

Tables

  1. Right-click a table.

  2. Select Table > Alternative Text.

  3. Type a title and description.

Alternative Text dialog box

Make hyperlinks, tables, and sheet tabs accessible

The following table describes how to make the hyperlinks, tables, and sheet tabs in your Excel spreadsheets accessible.

Type of inaccessible content

How to fix it

UI element used to fix it

Hyperlink text and ScreenTips

Add hyperlinks and ScreenTips:

  1. Right-click a cell.

  2. Select Hyperlink.

  3. In the Text to display box, type the hyperlink text.

  4. Select the ScreenTip button, and in the ScreenTip text box, type a ScreenTip.

    Tip: If the title on the hyperlink's destination page gives an accurate summary of what’s on the page, use it for the hyperlink text. For example, this hyperlink text matches the title on the destination page: Templates and Themes for Office Online.

Insert Hyperlink dialog box

Tables

Specify a header row in a block of cells marked as a table:

  1. Position the cursor anywhere in a table.

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

  3. Type column headings.

Header Row check box

Tables

Specify a header row in a new block of cells you are marking as a table:

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

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

  3. Select the My table has headers check box.

  4. Select OK.

Create Table dialog, with the My table has headers check box selected

Sheet tabs

Rename a sheet:

  1. Right-click a sheet tab, and select Rename.

  2. Type a brief, unique name for the sheet.

Rename menu item

Sheet tabs

Delete a sheet:

  1. Right-click a sheet tab.

  2. Select Delete.

Delete menu item

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