Introduction to Creating Accessible Charts and Tables in Microsoft Office

STEM (and other subjects) frequently requires presenting data in tables, charts, or graphs, so extra care must be taken to ensure that this data is presented accessibly. Images of tables, charts, or graphs are not accessible for students using screen readers because it is not possible to navigate through the data in an image. Even if a long description is provided for the images, it is still difficult to interpret the data. Instead, use the tools provided in the Microsoft Office suite to create accessible tables and charts.

Step by Step Directions for Creating Accessible Charts and Tables in Microsoft Office

 Creating Accessible Tables

  1. Select the ‘Insert’ tab on the top program options bar, and select the ‘Table’ option.
  2. Scroll down the Table menu and select the ‘Insert Table’ option; this will open the ‘Insert Table’ menu box.
    • Use the menu box to create your new table.
  3. Be sure to indicate if your table has headers. In the Table Format tab (visible when working in the table or the table is selected), check the ‘Header Row’ box if the top-most row is headers, and the ‘First Column’ box if the left-most row is row headers.
  4. Avoid using merged cells; split the table into multiple tables if the original table is too complex.
  5. If a cell is empty (for example, if the table is an example), best practice is to put a dash (-) in the cell so screen reader users know the cell does not contain data.

Creating Accessible Charts

  1. Select the ‘Insert’ tab on the top program options bar, and select the ‘Chart’ Option.
    • The ‘Chart’ option may be listed under illustrations if the menu has been shrunk from full screen.
  2. Select the chart style you want to use, and click OK. The chart will load, and a Microsoft Excel window will open above or below the chart.
    • Avoid Area and Surface style charts, as they are difficult to visually digest and do not provide their information in an easy to read format.
  3. In the Excel window, enter the chart data. Once the data has been entered, close the window.
    • To edit the data again, right-click the table, open the Edit Data menu, and select Edit Data.
      • i) If you select Edit Data in Excel, the data of the chart can be saved and provided to anyone who requests it.
    • Be sure to label the Series and Categories that will ensure your data is represented accurately.
  4. Enter the charts title and provide units, if needed, to the Y-axis of the chart.
  5. Provide the chart graphic alternative text.
  6. Select an appropriate color scheme for the chart.
    • Reference the Color Contrast Guidelines for help choosing colors.
    • Custom colors can also be used.
      1. For example, on a clustered column bar chart, selecting one bar should also select all of the bars for that series/category. (If all bars of that category are not selected, try deselecting off of the chart and then try again, or select the chart area and then select a bar again.)
      2. Right-click/alt-click on one of the selected bars and then select Format Data Series to open that pane on the right side of the Word window, or double-click a bar to open up the pane.
      3. Select the Fill and Line options (pouring paint bucket icon). Colors can be customized for both the fill and border, and patterns can be added to the fill by selecting Pattern Fill and then customizing the foreground and background colors. Patterns are useful if the color contrast is not high enough between categories; just be aware that too many patterns can also be overwhelming for users with sensory processing disorders.
  7. Provide the data in an accessible table or Excel file. The table can be included in the document or provided separately on the same Canvas page as the Word document or PowerPoint.

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