Excel Spreadsheet Accessibility Checklist & Guidance
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is committed to providing content on the VDOE website that is accessible to all. As of January 18, 2018, all new content on the VDOE website must meet W3C's WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliance. To create an accessible Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for posting on the VDOE website, the checklist and guidance provided must be followed. In addition, to remain on the VDOE website older relevant web content must be converted to meet W3C's WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliance no later than January 18, 2019. Any web content that is not compliant on that date is subject for removal from the VDOE website.
Before creating an accessible spreadsheet, consider adapting the information into webpage content. Read Web Content Options: Webpage, Word or PDF? for more guidance on selecting the proper format for your content.
Excel Accommodation Waivers
Excel spreadsheets must be compliant or the content contained made accessible through accommodation. The application of the Excel standard will be dependent upon the purpose of the Excel file. Excel files may be granted an accommodations waiver when files contain program modules and macros developed to perform automated analysis or to draw in data sets from external or legacy databases.
Data Sets & Excel
If the purpose of the Excel worksheet is to present a data set, the Excel file should be presented on the web as a Comma Separated Value (CSV) file and not as an .xlsx file. The link must clearly state that the CSV is a raw data set. A separate data definition document must accompany all CSV files. An Excel data set that would be presented as a CSV has the following characteristics:
- A single row of headings in the first row.
- The data set contains no formulas.
The following checklist outlines the recommended steps to ensure Excel spreadsheets are ADA compliant. Detailed information about each checklist item is provided in this guidance section. For a printable version, you can also download the VDOE Excel Spreadsheet Accessibility Checklist handout-This is a Word document. (Word).
- Set File Type & Name
- Is the file saved as a .xlsx (or CSV if this is a data set)?
- Is the file name lowercase with hyphens for spaces and contains NO special characters?
- Is the document file name concise, generally limited to 25 characters, and does it make the contents of the file clear?
- Provide Document Title
- Does the file have a document title?
- Give all Sheet Tabs Unique Names
- Does each tab have a unique name that is descriptive of the sheet contents?
- Remove Blank Sheets
- Are blank sheets removed?
- Mark the end of the worksheet
- Has “end of worksheet” been entered in the row immediately following the last row?
- Avoid using blank cells, rows and columns for formatting
- Have blank rows or columns for spacing been avoided?
- If the blank cell must be included, was “This cell intentionally left blank,” “N/A,” or “No data” entered in the cell?
- Specify Row and Column Headings
- Have Table Tools been checked to ensure proper row and column elements are marked?
- Keep Tables Simple and Straightforward
- Have merged or split cells been avoided?
- Have complex tables been separated into smaller tables?
- Include table data with any data visuals
- Is the data table provided for any charts or graphs?
- Use Appropriate Font Style and Size
- Times New Roman with a font size of 12 point is recommended for body text.
- Create Unambiguous Names for Links
- Is the destination, function or purpose described in the link name or surrounding text?
- Have you avoided using “Click Here” or “Learn More?”
- Do Not Rely on Color Convey Meaning
- Is all information conveyed without relying on color?
- Meet the Required Color Contrast
- Is there enough contrast between the background and foreground?
- Include Alternative Text for Images & Objects
- If the picture, clipart, chart, graph, shape or SmartArt graphic conveys information, is alternative text provided AND is the object placed in line with text?
- If the picture, clipart or shape is added for visual emphasis or decoration, is “decorative” entered as the alternative text? (Note: Decorative images do not have to be placed inline.)
- Are multiple associated images on the same page (e.g., boxes in an organizational chart) grouped as one object with one alternative text?
- Repeat Vital Information Included in Headers, Footers & Watermarks
- Is vital information from the header, footer or watermark duplicated in the document?
- Avoid Forms
- Were fillable form fields excluded from the document?
Ensure Accessibility Compliance
- Test for Compliance
- Was the spreadsheet checked using the built-in Microsoft accessibility checker?
- Can you navigate the spreadsheet using only the keyboard?
- Provide Accessible Alternative Versions
- Has a separate accessible version of the document been provided when there is no other way to make the content accessible? (Example: Organization Chart)