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Create accessible Excel spreadsheets


In this section we will cover how to create accessible spreadsheets using Microsoft Excel and different ways of sharing them online.


Before you get started, please read the Accessibility fundamentals page first. Following that, here are some additional key points specific to Excel:

  1. Font sizes: these need to be a minimum of 12 point and not the default Microsoft Office 11 point. 14 point is considered more accessible and good practice though.
  2. Table Formats: make your Excel data easier to read and understand by applying a “Table Format”. This will help screen readers identify the headings of the columns so the user will understand what information is within each column. If you have multiple tables, an appropriate name so your user can find the right set of data quickly.
  3. Merged cells: avoid using “merged cells” as this can cause issues for a screen reader.
  4. Charts: if you want to illustrate your Excel data with a Chart, include a chart title, axis titles and data labels so that screen readers can adequately describe what the chart represents. 
  5. Style: turn off gridlines to create lots of white lots space and use different design themes in charts to add colour contrast; this will therefore make your spreadsheet more readable.

Use the Excel Accessibility Checker

The Accessibility Checker is available in both Excel Online and on Desktop. To access all features, open your spreadsheet on your desktop / or laptop computer. To ensure that your spreadsheet can be read by a diverse range of people, you should use the Accessibility Checker. This inspects your spreadsheet for elements that would potentially cause problems for accessibility tools such as a screen reader. Errors, warnings and tips are displayed in the inspection results, along with information as to why and how to fix the issue. Whilst the Accessibility Checker is a really useful tool, it does not currently check all accessibility issues that are covered by the WCAG 2.1 AA standards.

Depending on the version of Office you are using, the Accessibility Checkers can be accessed either from the Review tab or the File tab.

How to access and use the Accessibility Checker is covered in the next section.

Microsoft Excel accessibility tutorials

Learn how to create more accessible Excel spreadsheets with training videos and online tutorials created by Microsoft:

Sharing your Excel spreadsheets

Excel spreadsheets can be shared internally with staff and student audiences via:

  1. Office 365 (via web browsers, mobile and desktop apps)
  2. Minerva Portal & VLE

Providing your spreadsheets in Excel format enables your audiences to re-format and annotate the content for their own use. For example, if someone with a visual impairment requires text in a larger size, they can modify it to meet their own needs.

However, we cannot assume all of our external audiences have access to Microsoft Excel. So it’s important to take that into account. So you may also need to provide the content in more than one format, if you want to increase the accessibility of your material.

1. Office 365

Sharing your Excel spreadsheets from OneDrive provides your audiences with options:

  1. Excel spreadsheets open in the browser, so this means file downloads are not forced onto people’s devices.
  2. Excel files can be downloaded in both Excel and PDF formats.

2. Minerva Portal & VLE

If you are involved in student education, you can upload your spreadsheets directly to Minerva modules and organisations, for your students to access. Excel spreadsheets in Minerva open in the browser.

Learn more about Microsoft Excel

The IT Training Unit offer:

Online courses are also available:


Written by Kirsten Thompson and Jane Hetherington | Last updated 08/02/21

Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)