Accessible Excel Spreadsheets

General Best Practices

  • Write clear and meaningful row and column labels
  • Include a title before any set of data
  • Give all sheet tabs unique names and remove blank sheets
  • Avoid merging cells and blank cells
  • Ensure your header is in one row (the title of your data set should reside above the table, not in the header as an extra row)
  • Ensure the language of the document has been set so the screen reader can interpret it correctly
  • No worries, formulas, filters, and pivot tables are A-Okay!

Document Properties

It's important to enter in a document title within the Document Properties for assistive technology devices. It's also important to enter this information for search engines as leaving this field blank can impact how the document pulls up through search results. 

  1. Select the File menu.
  2. Select Properties.  
  3. Ensure the Title field reflects a friendly document title (don't put dashes, underscores, or such). For example, "UMass Word Accessibility Checklist" would be a clean, concise document name.  
  4. You can enter in other relevant information (which will improve searchability of the document on websites and via Google), such as the Author name and Keywords.


  1. Right-click a cell.
  2. Select Hyperlink.
  3. Enter the Text to display.
  4. In the Address box, enter the destination address for the hyperlink.
  5. Select the ScreenTip button and, in the ScreenTip text box, type a ScreenTip.

Alt Text

Images, Shapes, or Charts

  1. Right-click an image.
  2. Select Format Picture, Shape, or Chart Area > Size & Properties.
  3. Select Alt Text.
  4. Enter the Alternate Text in the Description field, not the Title field. 


  1. Right-click a table.
  2. Select Table > Alternative Text.
  3. Enter the Alternate Text in the Description field, not the Title field. 

Pivot Tables

  1. Right-click the pivot table.
  2. Select Pivot Table Options > Alt Text.
  3. Enter the Alternate Text in the Description field, not the Title field. 

Table Headers

  1. Specify a header row in a block of cells marked as a table.
  2. Position the cursor anywhere in a table.
  3. On the Table Tools Design tab, in the Table Style Options group, select the Header Row check box.
  4. Type column headings.

You can also use the Style section under the Home tab to “Format as Table.”  You will receive a pop up window with the “My table has headers” checkbox defaulted as selected.  Keep this checkbox at the default and your top row will be identified as a header.

Running the Accessibility Checker

  1. Select the File menu.  The File menu will open defaulted to the Info tab. 
  2. On the Info tab, select the “Check for Issues” button in the Inspect Workbook section.  A sub-menu will open.
  3. Select the Check Accessibility sub-menu item.  The Excel accessibility check will run and a window will appear to the right of your spreadsheet with any issues that were identified.

Last Updated

Kelly Weeks
July 28, 2019