How to Create Accessible Excel Documents

  • 6th May'21
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Excel is one of the most innovative solutions to manage a hassle-free workbook. The best part about this feature is not only the modernity and presentation but also the accessibility to multiple users. It provides built-in templates to make the documents accessible to the end-user and Excel also lets the user make manual changes apart from the default templates. Better accessibility paves way for the user in terms of ease of view of the data, proper acknowledgment of the records, and getting right on the presentation.
Here is a Step by Step process on how to enable the accessibility features. Read on to know more.

Systematic Approach for better accessibility


Step 1: Choose a Template

A built-in template reduces time and presents your information in a manner that is quite professional. Some of the techniques that can be enabled are:


·         A proper name to the spreadsheet via Rename command. A spreadsheet for information about company employees must have a name like Comp_Emp rather than the default as Sheet1.


·         Color contrast helps readers to get the information in a clear format. In fact, it also works well with color-blind readers and low vision users. Make sure the font size is large enough, especially more than 12 points.


·         Screen-readers help low vision users get access to the data through the descriptive labels by listening to these readers. Also, make sure that the use of white space is proper and there are no blank sheets in the workbook.


·         Also, keep in mind the language of the document is as per the need of your end-user. To change the language, go to File-Options-Choose Editing language.


Step 2: Create Accessible Tables and descriptive text

·         Using the Insert--Table option from the ribbon, you can select a particular section on your spreadsheet and choose the “My table has headers” option. Screen-readers tend to read table headers to go onto tables.


·         Descriptive text for images, charts, graphs, and tables implies text that describes the figure properly so that a visually impaired user can understand it all through the text. For simple images, it should be about 120 characters and more for complex images, tables, and graphs.


·         This kind of alternate text describes the content that is similar to what is represented in the image. It lets the user identify the figure correctly.


·         Charts, bars, and graphs must be properly described so that the statistics are easily understandable by the user. Example: A bar graph depicts the increase in population from 20000 to 45000 in 4 years from 2001-2004 at a small town Joda due to starting of schools.


·         Right-click on the Image—Format. On the left panel, there will be an alt text option. Use it to provide the right description. Do the same for tables as well.





Step 3: Optimizing Tables


We know that tables give perfect documentation of any statistics for a bigger group. We already know how to create tables in Excel. We can work on optimizing the tables to give proper accessibility to all kinds of users.


·         On the Design tab, change the name of the table to something more descriptive than the default name.


·         Select the first column of the table and choose Banded rows. The row separation becomes more clear with this.


·         Use the right kind of table style for better accessibility. Darker contrast colors enable greater accessibility.


·         From the Home tab, alter the font size to a bigger font so that data inside the table is clearly visible.


·         Make rows a little taller by going to Format---Row Height and increase it. There must be enough space between texts too so that it looks well organized. This way users with dyslexia can also access it well.


·         Make sure to bold the title of your table to make it stand out.


Step 4: Navigation through names

·         For better accessibility and navigation by multiple users, it is a good practice to name the cell sections. Name them with the purpose they solve.

·         Select a range of cells, select Formula on the top ribbon, and select the Define Name option.


·         Provide an appropriate title for the cell range under the Name field and mention the scope. The scope determines which all worksheets will follow this naming convention. Click on ok after verifying the range.


·         Use Ctrl+G to see the names of the cell sections and hop on from one to another conveniently.



Step 5: Make Charts, graphs, and plots readily accessible

·         Charts, like tables, must be assigned descriptive text to enable low vision users to get the meaning of the conclusion from the figures.


·         After creating a chart from the Insert option, provide a proper name and change the default. Eg: A name like “Emp_Record_Salaryhike_Years” enables a viewer to understand the purpose of the cart better.


·         Add axis titles via Design---Add Chart Element---Axis Titles.


·         For data labels go to Design---Add Chart Element---Data Labels. Here select the axis, go to Format---Current Selection---Format Selection. It opens a plethora of options of axis crosses, position, type, number format, etc.


·         Select bigger font size for clarity of the plot done from the Home tab.







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The above steps ensure that in Excel we can use features to create documents that can be easily deciphered and accessible to any kind of user. We just have to incorporate care when we understand the user type. Screen readers help low vision users get access to and understand documents in a better way. The Accessibility Checker enables you to deal with any accessibility issues that the machine thinks there are. You can click on the File tab on the top left corner of the sheet, select Info, from the drop-down check for issues, and select the Check Accessibility option. The issues can then be addressed.



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About the author:

Supriti Tripathy, OpenGrowth Content Team

A believer of good things and pursuer of diverse avocation, she is a fiction lover and a simple writer. Supriti has a number of professions to her list and she feels challenges are the only answers to failures.

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2022-05-19 22:52:35