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Microsoft Excel Accessibility

The Law

Section 508
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was amended in 1998 to require Federal agencies to make electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. The accessibility of electronic content (.XSL & .XSLX) is also required in this amendment.
  • 1194.21 (F): Textual information shall be provided through operating system functions for displaying text. The minimum information that shall be made available is text content, text input caret location, and text attributes.
  • 1194.21 (I): When electronic forms are used, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.
  • 1194.22 (D): Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.

Universal Design

Creating accessible Excel Documents is beneficial for a variety of student populations, not just the visually impaired.

  • Accessible Microsoft Excel Documents are easily adapted into accessible PDF documents.
  • Students can easily interact with the documents by highlighting and taking notes.
  • The text of an accessible Microsoft Excel Document can also be read by any screen reading software–students can listen to the documents on the go!
  • Creating accessible Microsoft Excel Documents does not sacrifice the visual appearance of your document, so only one file type is needed.
  • Accessible Microsoft Excel Documents use XML tags to structure the document content. Structured content makes document search easier, helping students to review readings and content quickly.
Note: If the Accessibility Checker is not available to you, update your Microsoft programs to the latest version (2016). If you use Microsoft 2016 products, save your documents as .docx, .pptx, and .xlsx files to run the accessibility checker.

The Accessibility Checker tool in Excel for Windows finds accessibility issues in your Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, Outlook emails, and PowerPoint presentations. The tool generates a report of issues that could make your content difficult for people with disabilities to understand. Accessibility Checker also explains why you should fix these issues and how to fix them.

Start Accessibility Checker

  1. Open the Excel document (.xsl or .xslx) that you would like to review for accessibility.
  2. Select File.
  3. Select Info.
  4. Select “Check for Issues.”
  5. Select “Check Accessibility.”
  6. The Accessibility Checker pane will open on the right-hand side of the screen.
  7. Select a specific issue to see an explanation of the problem and steps to remediate.

The Check Accessibility button is located in the "Info" section on Excel.

Understand the Inspection Results

After Accessibility Checker inspects your content, it reports the inspection results based on the severity of the issue found, categorized as follows:

  • Errors. Issues that are reported as errors include content that is very difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to understand.
  • Warnings. Warnings, in many cases, mean that the content is challenging for people with disabilities to understand.
  • Tips. Tips let you know that, even though people with disabilities can understand the content, it could be better organized or presented to improve their experience.
Note: If the Accessibility Checker is not available to you, update your Microsoft programs to the latest version (2016). If you use Microsoft 2016 products, save your documents as .docx, .pptx, and .xlsx files to run the accessibility checker.

The Accessibility Checker in Excel for Mac finds accessibility issues in your Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, Outlook emails, and PowerPoint presentations. The tool generates a report of issues that could make your content difficult for people with disabilities to understand. Accessibility Checker also explains why you should fix these issues and how to fix them.

Start Accessibility Checker

  1. Open the Excel document (.xsl or. xslx) that you would like to review for accessibility.
  2. Select the Review tab on the Ribbon.
  3. Select “Check Accessibility”
  4. The Accessibility Checker pane will open on the right-hand side of the screen.
  5. Select a specific issue to see an explanation of the problem and steps to remediate.

The Check Accessibility button is located in the "Review" section on Excel.

Understand the Inspection Results

After Accessibility Checker inspects your content, it reports the inspection results based on the severity of the issue found, categorized as follows:

  • Errors. Issues that are reported as errors include content that is very difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to understand.
  • Warnings. Warnings, in many cases, mean that the content is challenging for people with disabilities to understand.
  • Tips. Tips let you know that, even though people with disabilities can understand the content, it could be better organized or presented to improve their experience.

Download Example Documents

Accessible Excel Document with Annotations

Inaccessible Excel Document with Annotations

Accessible Excel Document

Inaccessible Excel Document

Microsoft Resources

Microsoft Office 365 Accessibility

Visit Microsoft’s dedicated Accessibility website. Learn more about how Office 365 Accessibility can increase productivity and inclusivity.

Use the Accessibility Checker on Mac to Resolve Issues

Learn more about how to use the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft products on Mac devices.

Use the Accessibility Checker on Windows to Resolve Issues

Learn more about how to use the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft products on Windows devices.

Save Microsoft Documents as PDFs

Learn how to save Accessible Microsoft Documents as Accessible PDFs.

UMKC Resources

Accessibility Open Lab

Do you have concerns or questions about accessibility? Do you need help making videos, Word Documents, PowerPoints, Excel Files, or PDFs accessible? Come join our Accessibility Open Lab! Bring your questions and inaccessible materials with you.

Download the Accessibility Checker Instructions (Excel for Windows 2016)

Keep a copy of instructions for the Microsoft Accessibility Checker for Windows on your computer for easy reference!

Download the Accessibility Checker Instructions (Excel for Mac 2016)

Keep a copy of instructions for the Microsoft Accessibility Checker for Mac on your computer for easy reference!

Legal and Outside Resources

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act

Learn about Section 508 and UMKC’s legal obligation to create and deliver accessible content.

WebAiM: Microsoft Word – Creating Accessible Documents

Learn more about how to create Accessible word documents from WebAIM. This resource contains information for Word 2010-2016 (Windows) and Word 2011-2016 (Mac).