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Create accessible Excel workbooks
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Create accessible Excel workbooks

Create accessible charts in Excel

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If you label chart elements with care and include alt text, your users will better understand the data—whether they’re seeing the chart or hearing it interpreted by a screen reader.

Create a chart

  1. Select the data you want to use for the chart.

  2. Go to Insert, and then select a chart type.

Make chart labels descriptive

  • Chart title: Select the generic chart title, and replace it with a meaningful title.

  • Axis titles: Select the chart, and then select Design > Add Chart Element > Axis Titles. Select Primary Horizontal or Primary Vertical. In the chart, select the new Axis Title field and type a title that clearly describes the axis.

  • Data labels: Select the chart, and then select Design > Add Chart Element > Data Labels > Outside End.

Make chart labels legible

  • Data label format: Select the horizontal or vertical axis, and then select Format > Current Selection > Format Selection. On the Format Axis pane, set options to adjust the format and legibility of the axis, including the axis type, axis crosses, position, tick marks, label position and interval, and number format.

  • Font format: Use light-colored text on a dark background (or dark text on a light background). Apply a simple, sans serif font that’s 12 points or larger. Select the chart text that you want to change. Select Home, and change the Font, Font Size, Font Color, and other attributes.

Add alt text to a chart

  1. Select the entire chart.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • Select Format > Alt Text.

    • Right-click the chart, and select Edit Alt Text.

  3. In the Alt Text pane, enter alt text describing the chart.

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The charts and graphs you create in Excel help make complex information easier to understand. But how do you communicate this visual information to people with low vision?

The trick is to use words carefully, in a way that helps people with low vision understand what others see.

I’m going to create a new chart for a household budget. I'll go to File, then New, and then I’ll search for accessible templates in Excel that are good for a family budget.

I select the template I want, then select Create.

I'll enter my data…

Now I'll select it, and then select Insert.

By pausing over a chart type in the Charts gallery, I can see what it’s useful for, and when to use it.

Or, I can have Excel recommend a chart.

This “Clustered Bar” chart looks good, so I’m going to select it.

I want to make sure chart labels are clear and useful, whether my audience is looking at them, or hearing them from a screen reader.

I’ll start with the title, which is automatically generated by the template, and needs to be updated.

I’ll select the title and type a new, descriptive title for my chart.

Next, I’ll check the data labels. The labels on the left are okay, but the labels on the bottom are pushed together.

To respace the labels, I select the axis, go to Format, and select Format Selection. I’ll separate the numbers by 150, and leave off the dollar sign.

Now I’ll add data labels. I’ll select the chart and then select Chart Elements.

I’ll select Axis Titles to add titles on the horizontal and vertical axes.

I’ll select each placeholder, and replace it with a title that clearly describes the data in each axis.

I also want to add Data labels, to show the exact dollar amounts for each row of expenses.

To do that, I’ll select the chart again, select Chart Elements, and then Data Labels.

And here are the new labels on the chart.

The most important thing for any text is that it’s legible. Avoid light-colored text, italics, and font sizes smaller than 12 points.

Finally, I’ll add alt text. Every image, chart and object needs alt text, so that anyone who can’t see them, can still understand what they represent.

I’ll select the chart, go to Format, and select Format Selection to open the Format Chart Area pane.

Then I’ll select “Size and Properties”.

For “Alt Text”, I’ll add a Title and Description.

In the description, I want to convey the important ideas in the image – in this example, rent and groceries are the big-ticket items, so I want to be sure they’re called out.

After adding these details, this chart communicates better visually, and is more accessible for someone with low vision.

For more on accessibility, go to

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