Resources to use with our releasing statistics in spreadsheets guidance

The guidance

These resources are to be used alongside our guidance item: Releasing statistics in spreadsheets.

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We have created some checklists to help you implement our spreadsheets guidance.

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Accessibility checkers

Excel built-in accessibility checker

Newer versions of Excel have a built-in accessibility checker. You can use this to see what issues it flags up. But remember it is a bit like using a spelling and grammar check. It is likely to miss some things and it may bring up things that are not relevant.

For example, the checker may flag up tables that do not have alt text. As long as your tables are marked up and named correctly you do not need to add this in. In any case, it will be removed if you save your spreadsheet in an Open Document Spreadsheet (ODS) format (which we recommend you do if the website you publish on supports this file type).

To run the accessibility checker, go to the ‘Review’ ribbon and select ‘Check Accessibility’.

Custom-built accessibility checker using Analysis Function guidance

You can also use this custom-built XLSX accessibility checker. This experimental tool uses our ‘making spreadsheets accessible’ checklist to identify issues, however it is still in development and some things will still need to be checked manually.

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Example of an accessible spreadsheet

Labour market overview data tables, UK, December 2020: accessibility example (ODS, 664KB)

Note: in this spreadsheet the table of contents includes a column for: publication date, next publication date and source.

This is needed for this spreadsheet as the dates for the next publication date vary and the sources are not all the same.

If all your tables will get updated on the same date and they are all from the same source you can put this information on the cover sheet, you do not need to add these columns to the table of contents.

We have applied our accessibility guidance to a spreadsheet containing a summary of labour market statistics, published in December 2020 by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

We hope this example will help you understand and apply this guidance. We have addressed four of the worksheets in this large and complex spreadsheet.

The Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC) have audited this edited version and are happy that it meets all the accessibility guidelines.

The feedback from DAC’s accessibility tester illustrates the frustrations many users of assistive technology normally have with spreadsheets:

“When using the spreadsheet with [screen reader software] JAWS and NVDA I found it to be a pleasant experience. In the past I have found spreadsheets to be extremely confusing, disorientating and stressful. In part this stress came from having to make the document partially accessible for my own needs.

If all spreadsheets were created with as much care and attention to detail, I may not be as reluctant to work with them as I am today.”

If you want to see what this spreadsheet looked like before the guidance was applied, the ONS labour market summary datasets webpage has a link to it

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Demonstration video of making spreadsheets accessible

Download a transcript of this video with audio description (ODT, 45 KB). 

Download the baby names spreadsheet considered in this demonstration (ODS, 18.4KB).

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Demonstration video of using screen reader software in a spreadsheet

This screen reader demonstration was completed using NVDA, a free screen reader. If you wish to download this software you will need to contact your IT team.

In the video we highlight the importance of:

  • Marking up tables
  • Avoiding the use of symbols and superscript
  • Ensuring the cells in column A above the table on each worksheet contains information about what is contained in that worksheet.
  • Removing empty rows and columns​

Note: This video is for educational purposes. The data used is completely hypothetical. Please note I am not a screen reader user but I use the screen reader software to test outputs before publication.

Download a transcript of the demonstration video of using screen reader software in a spreadsheet (ODT, 13KB).

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Automation packages

Python package

Work has been done by the Analysis Standards and Pipelines team (ASAP) to create a Python package that generates accessible spreadsheets. This package is called gptables (this is because it was originally called ‘Good Practice Tables’).

With your existing dataset and a few extra parameters, you can automate many of the edits needed to produce accessible outputs.

Read more about this package, how it was developed and how it can be used.

Watch a demonstration video of how to use the gptables package:

This demonstration video outlines how to amend and run the example python code to automate an Excel reference data table into an accessible format. The video is trying to replicate the Labour Market overview accessible example  discussed earlier.

It is important to note that this package is still in development so there some aspects of the guidance that cannot currently be implemented. Please read more information on what the package can automate in the supplementary guidance document for the gptable package.

R package

An R package has also been produced to help you create accessible tables. This package is called a11ytables (this is because sometimes accessibility is shortened to a11y).

Note on automation packages

Neither of these packages are guaranteed to automatically produce perfectly accessible spreadsheets. The aim is to help you automate some of the edits.

Please email if you use either of these packages so we can evaluate the outputs produced.

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Related links

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