Excel accessibility for MAC


Common core

  • Accessible writing
  • Accessible Word to PDF
  • Checking and correcting PDF accessibility

External links

to download


A.Creating an accessible Excel workbook
Writing accessible text
Integrating accessibility
  • Most of the tasks related to creating an accessible PDF document from an Excel file are done when the document is created in Excel, not when converting the Excel file to PDF.

Document properties

Document properties (metadata)

Metadata contains basic information about the document itself:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Subject
  • Keywords
  • Language
This information is retained when the document is published in other formats.
Adding metadata
  1. Click on the File bar button (1). Now Click on Properties in the file pane (2).

    File properties tab

2. Select Summary tab (3) then, under the Summary tab, enter a title and any other desired properties (4). Finally, click on OK (5).

Summary tab


Defining the primary language of a document
  1. Click on tools bar button (1). Now, click on Language (2) in the tools pane.

    Tools language tab

  2. Under Language, select the  desired document language from the list (3).
  3. Finally, click on OK (4)

    Selecting desired language

Inserting screen reader help text
  • Help text provides information for screen readers to assist with navigation.
  • Example of help text: “Press TAB to move to input areas. Press UP or DOWN ARROW in column A to read through the document.
  • Enter very short help text in cell A1, change the colour to match the background colour and shrink text to fit under wrap Text. This way it will not show up visually but can still be read by the screen reader.

    Inserting short text

Shrinking text to fit


Adding or changing a worksheet name
  1. Double-click on the tab.
  2. Type in a new name.

    Naming requirements:

      – 31 or fewer characters

      – No special characters (backslash and brackets, etc.)

      – Descriptive with individual tab names mostly title and header.

Adding or changing a table title
  • Place table titles in the first column (1) so screen readers can find them easily.
  • The title can use more than one row and cell, merged to centre the title (2).
  • Title must be descriptive with unique name for each table.
Merging cells

  1. Select the cells to be merged (1)
  2. Go to Home tab (2).
  3. In the Alignment tab (3), select Merge & Center (4).

Merged cells can be contained in titles but not in the data section of tables. 

Merging cells

Example of a descriptive name table title

Not a descriptive title

A descriptive title

“Project Plan” should be replaced with “Office 2010 Accessibility Training Module Timeline, Summer 2012”


Creating a SmartArt graphic
  1. On the Insert bar button (1)
  2. Click on the SmartArt Graphic(2) in the insert pane.

    Insert smartart graphic tab
  3. In the Insert SmartArt Graphic (3) dialogue box, select the desired graphic (4).

    Insert smartart graphic dialogue box
  4. Click on the shape type (5).

    Insert smartart graphic shape type
Editing a SmartArt graphic
  1. Click on the SmartArt graphic you want to edit.
  2. on the Design tab (1),Click on Text Pane (2).
  3. Type your text in the [Text] area (3).
  4. To add additional bullets, click on Add Bullet, above [Text] area (4).


Smartart graphic design tab
Smartart graphic text pane

See Creating a SmartArt graphic by Microsoft to learn more about creating graphics.

Adding alternate text to SmartArt
  1. Click on the graphic that requires an alt text.
  2. Right-click on the graphic.
  3. Select Format Object.

Smartart graphic format shape tab

In the dialog box,

  1. Select the Alt Text tab (2).
  2. Enter a title in the Title box (3).
  3. Enter a description in the Description box (4).
  4. Click OK (5).
Smartart graphic alt text dialogue box


Adding alternate text to an image

In the dialog box,

  1. Select the Alt Text tab (2).
  2. Enter a title in the Title box (3).
  3. Enter a description in the Description box (4).
  4. Click OK (5).

Smartart graphic alt text dialogue box
Alternate text in earlier versions of Excel

The compatibility checker will display a message when items such as tables or pivot tables have alt text because alt text wasn’t supported by some earlier versions of Excel.

This will not result in a significant loss, but you may want to remove any alt text before saving your workbook in an earlier version of Excel.


Adding alt text to a chart
  1. Charts created in Excel don’t have an area for alt text.
  2. In the cell where the chart is, type the description.
  3. Hide the description text by changing the text colour to match the background colour (see example below). 

Adding alternate text to a chart


Creating or inserting a data table

Click on the Insert bar button (1). click Table (2).

Insert table tab
Highlight the cells you want to include in the table by creating a cursor rectangle on the area (3).

Cursor rectangleIn the Create Table box (4), click on  Insert Table with Headers (5).

Insert table with headers
Specifying header columns and rows
  1. Click anywhere in the table
  2. Under the Tables tab (1), check Header Row and/or First Column(3) in the Table Options (2).

    Table options tab

Table options
Column and row headers (rules)
  1. Each table must have a header for each column and row that is logical and meaningful.
  2. Don’t leave any blank headers.

    No blank column header
Avoid blank columns and rows
  1. Avoid blank rows and columns within a table.
  2. Resize rows and columns to create the spacing needed to make the table readable rather than using blanks to create spacing.
  3. Don’t leave column A blank to simulate a margin.

If you have two or more tables on the same worksheet…

  Leave a single blank row between each table—you can resize the blank row to create a space that is visually appealing.

Avoid blank columns and rows
No blank data cells
  1. Type “No data” in the cells you want to leave blank.
  2. Change the text colour to match the background colour. This way it will not show up visually but can still be read by the screen reader.

    No data cell

    Text is hidden


Inserting hyperlink
  1. Enter and select the text that will represent the link (URL) (1).
  2. Right click on the selected text then, click on Hyperlink… (2) in open pane.

    Insert hyperlink open pane
  3. Select Web Page (3) as the source of the link.
  4. In Link to field (4), enter the (URL)
  5. Click OK (5).

Insert hyperlink window

Inserting document links
  1. Select Document (3b) as the source of the link.
  2. Click on Select (4b) button

    Insert hyperlink window
  3. In the Choose a file to link to pop-up window, select the file directory on the left pane (5b), double click on the file name contain in the selected directory the middle pane (7b).
  4. You may need to scroll down (6b).
  5. Click on Open (8b).

    Choose a file window
  6. The file URL will show in the link to (9b).
  7. Finally, click on OK (10b)

    Insert hyperlink window


Removing comments

Screen readers can’t read comments. You can either delete the comments or put them in a cell.

To remove a comment:

  1. Right click the cell containing the comment.
  2. Choose Delete Comment.

    Remove cell comments
Setting print area
  1. Highlight the entire area of the table you want to print, including titles and other information.
  2. Click the File bar button(1).
  3. Select Print Area (2) in the file pane and then Set Print Area (3).

    Set print area tab
  4. A bleu dot will appear on the worksheet.

    Bleu dot
Hiding unused cells

Hiding unused columns and rows saves time for individuals using screen readers and keyboard navigation.

Hidden rows and columns
Hiding columns and rows


  1. Leave one blank column to the right of your data.
  2. Select the first column you want to hide.
  3. While holding down the Shift key, press and release the Fn + right arrow key on your keyboard.
  4. Still holding down the Shift key, press the right arrow key (this selects all columns from the first one you selected all the way to the end of the right-hand side of the spreadsheet).

    Left click and let the cursor hovering there
  5. With your cursor hovering in the selected area, right click and choose Hide (1).

    Hide column tab


  1. Leave one blank row below your data.
  2. Select the first row you want to hide.
  3. While holding down the Shift key, press and release the Fn + right arrow key on your keyboard.
  4. Still holding down the Shift key, press the down arrow key.

    Left click and let the cursor hovering there
  5. With your cursor hovering in the selected area, right click and choose Hide (1).

    Hide rows tab
Unhiding cells
  1. Select the last visible column or row.
  2. Place your cursor exactly on the double vertical line on the right-hand side of the column header (image 1) and hover until your cursor line turn from single to double with two arrows (image 2).

    Double vertical line
    Double arrows
  3. Click and drag to the right, exposing the very last column.
  4. Select the new final column. Right-click in the column and choose Unhide
Deleting unused worksheets
  1. Right-click on the tab of the unused worksheet.
  2. Click Delete (1) in the dialog box. 

    Unused worksheet tab
End of Worksheet

Type “End of Worksheet” in the row immediately under the last row of your table.

End of worksheet row
Check spelling
  • Excel doesn’t automatically do a spell-check.
  • Excel spell-checks only one worksheet at a time.
  1. In the Review tab (1) , click Spelling (2) in the Proofing group.

    Review tab
  2. Follow the prompts.

Navigating a table

Defining the title region (part 2)
  1. Select the top-left cell in your table (don’t include titles as part of your table but do include all row and column headers)(1).
  2. Under Insert bar button tab (2), choose Name (3) then Define (4).

    Define name tab
  3. In the Names in workbook field (5),insert a unique name for a specific table in the workbook. 

    Define name window
Defining the title region (Q&As)
  1. What if my table has only one column header? 
    Define a ColumnTitleRegion instead of a TitleRegion. The rest of the coding is the same.
  2.  What if my table has only one row header? 
    Define a RowTitleRegion instead of a TitleRegion. The rest of the coding is the same.
  3.  What if I create these titles and then make a change to my table? 
    It’s always best to define regions step only once you’re ready to publish: if you make even a simple change, such as moving your worksheet tabs around or adding an extra row, you’ll have to recode the titles to match your spreadsheet’s new reality.
  4. What if I need to edit these names?
    Go back to the Name Manager, select the name you want to edit and click the Edit button.


Quick checklist
  • Use sufficient contrast
  • Provide descriptive titles
  • Ensure all columns and rows have headers
  • Don’t leave any unnecessary blank cells
  • Follow best practices for links
  • Remove comments
  • Set the print area
  • Hide extra columns and rows
  • Delete unused worksheets
  • Perform a spell-check
  • Enter document properties
  • Provide keystroke navigation instructions at the beginning of your document
  •  Keep table titles in the first column
  • Provide alt text for images and charts
  • Avoid blank columns and rows
  • Type “End of Worksheet” at the bottom of your table
  • Define the title region 
B. The accessibility of your Excel document
Checking the accessibility
  1. Under the File tab (1), in the Info tab (2), select Check for issues (3) to open the dialog box.
  2. In the dialog box, select Check Accessibility (4). (You will automatically return to your document and the list of errors will appear on the right.)


    Accessibility full check dialogue box
Fixing accessibility errors
  1. Fix the errors mentioned on the right.
  2. For more information on MS Excel Accessibility Checker or to find a way to fix an error, read the Rules used by the Accessibility Checker.
  3. Note: the MS Excel Accessibility Checker is compatible with MAC. To use the checker on Mac, download Parallels Desktop for Mac software 9.

    Accessibility checker
C. Configuring PDF Maker
Why save as PDF?
  • You can set security measures (passwords, restrict changes to your document).
  • You can compress a large file (facilitates sharing and downloading).
  • The look and feel of the original file is preserved when it is viewed on another computer with different applications or versions of applications.
Converting a document to PDF
  1. Select the File tab (1).
  2. Select Save & Send (2).
  3. Select Create PDF/XPS Document (3)
  4. Click the Create PDF/XPS button to open the dialogue box (4).
  5. In the Save as type box (1), select PDF (*.pdf) (2).
  6. Enter the name of the document in the file name box (3).
  7. Click the Options button (4).

Converting a document to PDF

Defining a PDF document:

  1. Make sure Document structure tags for accessibility is selected in the Options dialogue box.
  2. Select ISO 19005-1 compliant (PDF/A).
  3. Click OK.

Defining a PDF document

Publishing a document in PDF:

Click on Publish.

Publishing a document in PDF
D. Tools and resources

To learn more about creating accessible Excel documents

Accessibility training: Introduction
How to create an accessible campaign
How to interact with accessibility in mind
How to create accessible web content
Find an expert

Marie-Claude Gagnon, Web Accessibility Compliance Coordinator

613-562-5800 extension 7452

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