At the time of testing (December 2019), Excel 2010 and later versions provide a set of accessibility features that are sufficient to enable the production of accessible digital office documents. In addition, Excel includes an accessibility checking feature.
How to Create an Accessible Office Document
You should use these techniques when you are using Excel to create documents that are:
- Intended to be used by people (i.e., not computer code),
- Text-based (i.e., not simply images, although they may contain images),
- Fully printable (i.e., where dynamic features are limited to automatic page numbering, table of contents, etc. and do not include audio, video, or embedded interactivity),
- Self-contained (i.e., without hyperlinks to other documents, unlike web content), and
- Typical of office-style workflows (Reports, letters, memos, budgets, presentations, etc.).
If you are creating forms, web pages, applications, or other dynamic and/or interactive content, these techniques will still be useful to you, but you should also consult the W3C-WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) because these are specifically designed to provide guidance for highly dynamic and/or interactive content.
The default file format for Excel is Office Open XML (XSLX). In addition, Excel offers many other spreadsheet processor and web format saving options. Most of these have not been checked for accessibility, but some information and/or instructions are available for the following formats in Technique 12 (below):
- MS Excel
We have tried to formulate these techniques so that they are useful to all authors, regardless of whether they use a mouse. However, for clarity there are several instances where mouse-only language is used. Below are the mouse-only terms and their keyboard alternatives:
- *Right-click: To right-click with the keyboard, select the object using the Shift+Arrow keys and then press either (1) the “Right-Click” key (some keyboard have this to the right of the spacebar) or Shift+F10.
Disclaimer and Testing Details:
Following these techniques will increase the accessibility of your documents, but it does not guarantee accessibility to any specific disability groups. In cases where more certainty is required, it is recommended that you test the office documents with end users with disabilities, including screen reader users.
The application-specific steps and screenshots in this document were created using Microsoft Excel 2010 (ver.14.0.4760.1000, Windows XP, Sept. 2010) and Microsoft Excel included with Office 365 while creating a XLSX document. Files are also easily saved as other file formats (see Technique 12, below).