Creating Accessible Spreadsheets (Microsoft Excel)

Excel Document Accessibility Guidelines

Worksheet Titles

Rename worksheet titles to ensure a concise and descriptive title for each sheet tab. Descriptive sheet names are especially important for documents with multiple sheets.


To manage and group related data, you can turn a range of cells into an Excel table.

  • Spreadsheets do not contain tables or table structures by default.
  • Only single-level table headings are generally accessible and understandable by assistive technology.
  • Creating tables ensures that cell content does not break across pages.
  • Visit Microsoft 365 support’s Excel table guide for video tutorials.

Table Titles

For each table in a worksheet, enter a unique title in the first cell (cell A1) or directly above the table. Merging cells is acceptable when used for this purpose. The description of the table’s content can also be added here or in the alt text.

Create Accessible Tables in Excel

Create a table to group data cells and enable additional formatting and filtering options. 

  1. Select all cells to be included in the table, including header and column rows.
  2. Select Home, then choose ‘Format as Table’ in the Styles group of the ribbon.
    Note: Using banded rows (rows with alternating colors) may make tables easier to read.
  3. Verify the range of cells for your table and check off ‘My table has headers’ to apply column headers. Use the ‘First Column’ checkbox to apply row headers.
    Note: Uncheck the ‘Filter Button’ to remove the sorting/filtering functionality and remove the select menus from the headers.”

Create a named range to group related cells and to give the group a descriptive name.

  • Do not use a named range to create a group that would benefit from the functionality of a table. Tables include semantic markup such as row headers that are used by assistive technology.
  • Use the Name Manager to view, edit and verify named ranges and tables.
  • Special Excel link functionality, such as linking between workbooks, is described in Microsoft 365 Support’s guide on how to work with links in Excel.
  • Guidance for general hyperlink accessibility is provided in What are the document accessibility guidelines for Microsoft 365????????????.

Special Considerations for Images in Excel

  • Images in Excel do not allow for anchoring or inline positioning and cannot be read in a specified, meaningful order by screen reader technology. Include a text description for an image in an adjacent cell.
  • Do not use the ‘Copy (data) as Picture’ option, unless an alternative, accessible method is also implemented.

Using Blank Rows for Layout

  • When using a blank row to create extra space for layout, add the text ‘No Data’ or ‘intentionally left blank’ to the row.
  • Merge cells in this row to the width of the content area.
  • This text may be hidden using a font color that matches the background color (e.g., white text in a white cell).

End of Worksheet

Define the end of the worksheet.

  • A single blank row with the text ‘End of Worksheet’ can be used following all informational content. This can assist non-visual users in determining the end of the content.
  • Merge cells in this row to the width of the content area.
  • This text may be hidden using a font color that matches the background color (e.g., white text in a white cell).

Check Accessibility

  • Use the built-in Accessibility Checker.
    • Review the results.
    • Correct all issues found under Errors.
    • Inspect all Warnings.
    • Resolve any additional concerns.

Note: Additional preferences allow users to check accessibility while working.

Print/Export Options

Use these settings to control how your spreadsheet will appear if it is printed or exported to PDF, yielding more usable results.

Export to PDF

Note: Before exporting an Excel file to PDF, consider if the information would be more effectively shared in another format such as a website.  

  1. Your PDF export process may depend on the version of Excel that you are using. Choose ‘Save as’ or ‘Save a Copy,’ and choose PDF from the formatting options. Alternatively, if Adobe Acrobat Pro is installed, you may be able to choose ‘Create and Share Adobe PDF’ and use the Adobe cloud service to create a ‘high quality, rich and accessible PDF.’
  2. If there are additional PDF save options available, select ‘Document structure tags for accessibility,’ or ‘Best for electronic distribution and accessibility.’
  3. Enter a concise, meaningful filename with no special characters, spaces, or unfamiliar abbreviations.
  4. Open your PDF document in Adobe Acrobat Pro. Use the Acrobat Accessibility Check tool and fix all accessibility issues.

Additional Resources




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