What's new in accessibility for Excel

We are committed to making Office 365 applications accessible by design on every device, so that

  • People with disabilities can communicate, consume, and create content on any device.

  • Everyone can easily create content that is accessible.

In this article, we'll share some highlights from recent updates on our journey to make Excel for PCs, Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile better for customers who use a keyboard and assistive technology. We welcome your feedback so we can continue to improve Excel for everyone.

We’ve made Excel more consistent and reliable with screen readers, and we’ve enabled deeper and broader feature access with screen readers. We've made it easier and more efficient for you to navigate in charts, and added features so screen readers identify all the chart elements by name as you go through them. There are important improvements to tables, and more information about almost every element in a workbook through screen reader verbosity settings.

To learn how to use these features with a screen reader and keyboard, choose the Excel icon on Office Accessibility Center.

November 2016 updates

Here are some highlights of the November 2016 update of Excel. Our accessibility improvements follow industry standards and can be used by any assistive technology.

Note: If you'd like to be among the first to use these improvements, join the Office Insider program.

Screen reader and keyboard interaction

  • Screen readers offer more detailed information about workbooks, such as size and the presence of such elements as images and Excel objects, hidden rows or columns, freeze panes, and split panes.

  • Screen readers also can read out more detailed information about cells, such as address and value, and the presence of elements such as formulas, hyperlinks, comments, data bars and sparklines.

  • Navigate efficiently in dialog boxes, menus, and panes.

Alt text for Excel images

Alt text for pictures, images, and, charts now has a consistent operation across Office 365 apps, including Excel. In this update, Excel added the ability to create alt text for other objects that are Excel-specific.

  • Tables

  • PivotTables and PivotCharts

  • Pictures in a grid background

Accessibility Checker

To help you author accessible workbooks, Excel now supports the Accessibility Checker in Windows desktop, Mac, and Online versions. Accessibility Checker for mobile apps is expected soon.

  • Start the Checker from a button in the Review tab on the ribbon.

  • Friendly feedback information with Steps to fix instructions that match ribbon commands, such as how to add alt text.

  • The Accessibility Checker checks for alt text, column headers and table structure, floating objects, hyperlink text, and more.

Save As or Export to PDF

This update offers improvements in support for creating an accessible, correctly tagged file in PDF format, by using Save As or Export commands.

  • Hyperlinks are correctly tagged.

  • OfficeArt and floating objects in tables are tagged correctly as a figure, chart, or diagram.

  • Text elements in a chart are tagged with a meaningful reading order.

Chart navigation

  • Use Enter or Spacebar to go directly into the contents of the chart, such as the title or the plot area.

  • Use the Tab key to navigate in logical and predictable way through chart elements, such as the title, the legend, the plot area, icons, and any embedded shapes.

  • Use a screen reader to identify chart elements by name, such as "Chart title: ThisChart".

Rich Text formatting

  • Press F2 for Edit mode, then navigate and select a range of text to format by using the keyboard (Shift+Left Arrow or Shift+Right Arrow).

  • With text selected, use keyboard actions (Alt+access key) to go to the ribbon and select an available formatting command.

Text styles

  • Screen readers now read a style description in addition to the style name. For example, a screen reader would announce, "Name: Alignment Description: General, bottom aligned."

  • Screen readers now read colors associated with styles, such as, "Fill - Blue, 20% Accent1". This applies to styles for Themes, Tables, PivotTables, Slicers, Timelines, and Sparklines.

Page setup

  • Cell size dimensions are now available in a menu on the ribbon.

  • Individual dimensions such as row height now have selectable icons.

Table headers and table navigation

  • Screen reader users can navigate in a table by using native keyboard commands alone.

  • Column headers are now inserted automatically when you insert a table.

  • Screen readers reliably read on-screen row and column headers.

Talk to us

We welcome your feedback.

We want you to love working with Excel. If you have a suggestion about making Excel more usable for people with disabilities, please give us feedback or vote at Excel User Voice Forum.

Technical support for people with disabilities

Microsoft wants to provide the best possible experience for all our customers. If you have a disability or questions related to accessibility, please contact the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk for technical assistance. The Disability Answer Desk support team is trained in using many popular assistive technologies and can offer assistance in English, Spanish, French, and American Sign Language. Please go to the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk site to find out the contact details for your region.

If you are a government, commercial, or enterprise user, please contact the enterprise Disability Answer Desk.

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