Microsoft Excel

Sample template and guidelines for creating accessible documents.

Microsoft Excel Templates

As the types of documents created in Excel can be quite varied, we recommend you search the Microsoft Template repository for “Accessible Templates” and browse the results to find something close to your requirements. After choosing a template, review the guidelines on this page to ensure your workbook contains all the features that will ensure your document meets AODA requirements. As you modify the template and/or add your content, also be sure to follow the guidelines below so that the content you add to your workbook is accessible.

Browse free Microsoft accessible Excel templates on the web

Microsoft Excel Guidelines

Use the following tips to create a document that is accessible to readers with a variety of disabilities.

Use the built in Accessibility Checker

Before you start you should turn on the accessibility checker built into Microsoft PowerPoint. This will flag any issues that come up as you work so that you can resolve them immediately without making the same error more than once.

  • To manually launch the Accessibility Checker, select Review > Check Accessibility. The Accessibility pane opens on the right, and the Accessibility tab appears at the top. You can now review and fix accessibility issues as you work.
  • At the bottom of the Accessibility pane, you will find a link to the Help content about making documents accessible. Review the information and use it as a guide to ensure the content you add to this template follows accessibility best practices.
  • How to improve accessibility with the Accessibility Checker

Use an Accessible Template

Explore the accessible Excel templates provided by Microsoft either on the web or in Excel.

  • To browse templates in your web browser, select the following link: Browse free Microsoft accessible Excel templates on the web
  • To browse templates in Excel, select File > New. In the Search for online templates field, type “accessible templates”. Select one of the accessible templates to open a new workbook based on the template.
  • As you work within the template, be sure to maintain the approaches described on this page to ensure the accessibility is retained as you add content, and that the level of accessibility meets AODA requirements.
  • How to start with an accessible template in Excel

Design simple tables with meaningful headers

Screen readers use header information to identify rows and columns. Screen readers will read the table left to right and top to bottom.

  • Clear table headers provide context and make navigating the table content easier.
  • Avoid using complex table structures and instead, design it to be as simple as possible. Tables that have nested tables, merged cells, split cells and/or blank rows / columns, are difficult for screen readers to navigate.
  • If you cannot avoid a blank cell, column, or row, enter text explaining that it is blank. For example, type N/A or Intentionally Blank.
  • How to create and format tables in Excel

Give tables a descriptive name

By default, Excel names the tables you create as Table1, Table2, Table3, and so on. Instead, give each table a descriptive name.

Choose Colours and Contrast Carefully

Light colored tables with low contrast can be hard to read. To make your table more accessible, select a table style that has colors with a strong contrast.

  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 recommend a minimum ratio of 4.5:1 for large text and 7:1 for other text and images. For example, avoid light gray text on a white background, or text over top of a multicoloured photographic background.
  • See Best Practices: Choose Colours and Contrast Carefully for more details.
  • To check contrast, use the following tool: WebAIM contrast checker: This is a website that allows you to enter values to get a pass/fail rating based on WCAG compliance.

Add an overview of the sheet in cell A1

If the sheet is long or complex, add instructions or an overview of the sheet in cell A1. This will inform people who are blind what’s being presented in your worksheet and how to use it. This instructional text can match the background color, which will hide it from people who can see, but allow it to be read by screen readers.

Give all worksheet tabs unique and descriptive names

Screen readers read worksheet names. The name given to each worksheet should accurately describe the contents found on the worksheet, and blank ones should be removed. This will make it easier to navigate through the workbook. By default, Excel names the worksheets “Sheet 1”, “Sheet 2”, “Sheet 3”, and so on.

Name formulas and ranges

Name formulas and ranges so that screen reader users can quickly identify the purpose of cells and ranges in your worksheet. Users can use the Go To command (Ctrl+G) to open up a dialog box which lists all the defined names. By selecting a name, a user can quickly jump to the named location.

Add alternative text to visuals

Alternate text (also referred to as Alt text) allows you to add textual descriptions to images or other visual elements so people using assistive technologies such as screen readers can hear an audio description of what is represented. Visual elements includes pictures, SmartArt graphics, shapes, groups, charts, pivot charts, embedded objects, ink, and videos.

  • After inserting a visual, select it and right click to choose View Alt Text. In the dialogue box that appears, add, or edit a description.
  • If an image is decorative and not important to understanding the content, select the box next to “Mark as decorative” in the View Alt Text options (see Best Practices: Describe Images Using Text for more details).
  • How to write effective alt text

Write Descriptions for Links

Hyperlinks to websites or online resources need to include a full description of the destination.

  • Using the complete URL address as the hyperlink text (for example can be confusing when read by a screen reader, especially if it is lengthy.
  • A common error is to use phrases like “Click here” as the display texts for hyperlinks, which does not include a description of where the link goes or its function.
  • 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.
  • How to work with links in Excel

Use accessible font formatting

To make your document easy to read, consider font type, size, spacing and alignment. Fonts that are too small or too decorative may not be readable by some users.

  • To ensure that text displays well in a high contrast mode, use the Automatic setting for font colors.
  • Use “sans serif” fonts with sufficient spacing between letters (e.g. Arial, Verdana, Helvetica, Century Gothic).
  • Use fonts 11-14 points in size for body text.
  • Avoid using italics as it can make text harder to read.
  • Only use underline for hyperlink text to help users be certain when text is a link.
  • Avoid or limit the use of capital letters for whole words and headings. Dyslexic readers may find lowercase letters easier to read, and excessive use of capital letters can cause crowding and make the text appear to run together.
  • Increasing line spacing slightly helps avoid crowding the text, making it easier for dyslexic individuals to track lines.
  • How to format text in cells in Excel

Use text labels for charts and diagrams

Ensure the chart style you choose includes descriptive text labels, does not depend on only colour to comprehend, and that the colour contrast is appropriate.