Creating accessible Excel workbooks and spreadsheets will help users of assistive technology access and navigate the content included in Excel files. You can learn and implement simple but impactful good practice around accessibility to help unlock your content to everyone and maintain longevity of your files.
Tables in Excel need to be identified as such by ‘marking them up’. This means code is added to the tables in the background to help software recognise them as such and understand the content. You will almost always need to mark up tables in your Excel files as they will contain your data sets.
To mark up data in Excel as a table:
To specify the first column and header row in an existing table:
All tables should have one named header (top) row. All columns must have text in the header row (or Excel will give any columns that don’t a default name when they are identified as part of a table). In addition, header names must be unique – a table can’t have two columns with the same text in the header row.
To define named regions for cell ranges:
Filters and freeze panes are usually used to assist with viewing sheets with large data sets. However, these viewing options obscure data and can make page navigation difficult.
If you do need to use filters or freeze panes, inform users, and give instructions on how to turn them off.
Worksheets affect how users will access and understand your content. Some tips include:
Creating data sets appropriately is important in ensuring users can access and navigate your content effectively. Some tips include:
Cells that do not contain any data can be a barrier for assistive technology users to understand where the table starts and ends.
If the following points are met, blank cells should not cause accessibility issues:
Ensure to wrap text within cells. This will make the text in cells visible and clearly spaced out.
Excel Tips [online], 2021. [online]. Accessibility at Penn State. Available from: https://accessibility.psu.edu/microsoftoffice/excel/ [Accessed 24 Sep 2021].
Make your Excel documents accessible to people with disabilities [online], 2021. [online]. Microsoft Support. Available from: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/make-your-excel-documents-accessible-to-people-with-disabilities-6cc05fc5-1314-48b5-8eb3-683e49b3e593 [Accessed 24 Sep 2021]
Making spreadsheets accessible: a checklist of the basics [online], . [online]. Government Analysis Function. Available from: https://analysisfunction.civilservice.gov.uk/policy-store/making-spreadsheets-accessible-a-brief-checklist-of-the-basics/ [Accessed 12 Sep 2022].