Excel Accessibility: Accessibility Checker & Some Notes about STEM Content

Accessibility Checker

Office 2016 offers a built-in Accessibility Checker. Using this automated checker won’t make your workbook perfectly accessible, but it’s a great tool.

Note: In order to use the Accessibility Checker, your spreadsheet needs to be saved as .xlsx – uncheck compatibility.

Go to File > Info > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility:

Excel 2016 Backstage area (Info) with Check Issues expanded to highlight Check Accessibility option

This allows you to access the Accessibility Checker pane. This pane provides you with Errors, Warnings, Why Fix and How to Fix. The How to Fix area usually provides step-by-step directions to assist you in correcting errors. (Not all issues can be checked this way, but it will catch a majority.)

Excel 2016 Accessibility Checker pane

STEM Content

Please be aware that Excel’s built-in Equation Editor (located in the Insert Ribbon with Symbols) is not accessible for screen readers. The resulting equations are inserted as images, and adding alt text to these images doesn’t render usable content with Excel.

Even if equations are written out linearly in Excel, there are some STEM symbols that screen readers do not voice properly or at all.

Note: If you have a limited number of equations, you may be able to tag them as figures if you convert your workbook to PDF. Then, when you add the alt text in PDF, you will need to write out the equations as if you were speaking them.

We’ll wrap up Excel accessibility basics with the Acrobat Ribbon Tab and conversion to PDF.


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