Nhon Nguyen

Nhon Nguyen

Sr. Software Engineer

Does your company think about ADA compliance in your data reporting? Well if not, you probably should.

Why?

Consider this: you do not want to go through the trouble of creating a report and compiling data, only to find that a team member, stakeholder, or client cannot access the report because the user interface (UI) is not compatible with their assistive technology.

Similar to a how someone with a physical disability might use a wheelchair to get around, someone with a visual impairment might utilize a screen reader to access digital content. If you think about how a mobility aid doesn’t function in a building without an accessible entrance or elevator, assistive technology such as a screen reader won’t work if your reports are incorrectly formatted. 

Ok, my data’s UI is inaccessible…what can I do to make sure that individuals with disabilities can access my report? By exporting your report as an Excel document,  you can use our 6 step checklist to format your file so that it is ADA compliant and accessible to everyone, regardless of disability:

1. Start your report at cell A1

When you create your report, make sure your data starts in the first cell of the spreadsheet: A1. This allows assistive technology to recognize there is data on the report. When a column is hidden (like column A in our non-compliant example below) or the first cell is blank, the screen reader will think there is no data on the report.

Non-Compliant Report Example:

This is an example of an excel report that is not ADA compliant. The A column has been hidden and the curser is on cell B1, which is a blank cell.

Compliant Report Example:

This is an example of an excel report that is ADA compliant. The first column is the A column and the first row is row 1. The curser is on cell A1, which includes the text "Account: Business Unit 1"

 

2. Avoid Blank Cells

When you format your ADA compliant report, resist the urge to insert blank cells, columns, or rows to visually format the report. While this may look pretty, a screen reader cannot accurately interpret stylistic choices

In the non-compliant sample below, rows 3 and 4 are left blank as a formatting choice. Even though it looks nice, it’s not ADA-compliant and doesn’t add to the report’s content. Alternatively, on the compliant example, there are no blank rows between the report title and the actual data. 
Ok, we know what you are thinking, “Wait a minute, but what about cells D5 and D9? Those two cells are left blank in the ADA compliant sample!” You are right, but let’s think about what those blank cells tell you. By leaving those cells blank, you know that those two users do not have phone numbers listed. As blank cells, D5 and D9 add to the overall understanding of the report and are not just a stylistic choice.

Bonus Tip: If you cannot avoid blank cells, write “Blank” in the cell and change the font color to match the cell background. The cell will be visually blank, but a screen reader can read the text and accurately convey the purpose of the cell.

Non-Compliant Report Example:

This is an example of an excel report that is not ADA compliant. Rows 3 and 4 have been highlighted to show that they were left blank as a formatting style choice.

Compliant Report Example:

This is an example of an excel report that is ADA compliant. There are no blank rows or columns within the report data. Cell D5 has been highlighted to show that it was left blank because it does not contain any data, in this case--User 12 does not have a phone number listed.

3. Each column must have a header

By using appropriate and descriptive column headers, all users can easily understand how the data is organized.

In the non-compliant example, the final column is not labeled and its purpose is unclear. On the compliant example, the column is clearly labeled with “Deleted,” indicating to users that user profile is inactive.

Non-Compliant Report Example:

This is an example of an excel report that is not ADA compliant. Cell M6 has been highlighted to show that this column does not have a clearly defined header.

Compliant Report Example:

This is an example of an excel report that is ADA compliant. Cell G2 has been highlighted to show that this column does have a clearly defined header.

4. No Merged Cells

Each piece of data must belong to just one cell. When cells are merged, it’s difficult for the screen reader to accurately convey where the data belongs.

In the non-compliant example, usernames are written in merged cells that span across columns B, C, and D. In the compliant sample, however, these usernames are not in merged cells and exist only in column A–a format which is much easier for a screen reader to interpret.

Non-Compliant Report Example:

This is an example of an excel report that is not ADA compliant. Cells under the header "username" have been highlighted to show that they are made up of merged cells. These highlighted cells consist of merged columns B, C, and D.

Compliant Report Example:

This is an example of an excel report that is ADA compliant. In this report, cells under the header "username" have been highlighted to show that they only exist in a single column, in this case, column A.

5. Images

Let’s step back from an Excel report for a moment and talk about the User Interface (UI) version of the report. When a UI report includes an image, that image should be labeled with a tooltip that textually describes what the image is. However, when the UI report is exported to Excel, oftentimes this tooltip doesn’t export. Which means a screen reader cannot interpret the image. If this is the case, make sure you add a cell or a column that interprets the image.In the example below, the non-compliant report contains red “X” images to indicate a user’s profile has been deleted. On the compliant counterpart, this information has been translated into a column labeled ‘deleted’ with each subsequent cell reading “yes” or “no” to indicate the profile has been deleted.

Non-Compliant Report Example:

This is an example of an excel report that is not ADA compliant. In cell M9 there is an image of a red "X."

Compliant Report Example:

This is an example of an excel report that is ADA compliant. Cells G3 through G12 have been highlighted to show how the x's in the previous non-compliant image have been translated in to yes/no statements.

6. Provide the name of each sheet

Each worksheet needs a descriptive title. If you are exporting your Excel file from your UI Report, depending on which tool you use, you should be able to set this up fairly easily.

In the sample below, the non-compliant report sheet names are the Microsoft default “Sheet 1,” “Sheet 2,” etc. On the ADA compliant report, these sheet names now reflect the report title–in this case, “User List,” “User List (2),” etc.

Non-Compliant Report Example:

This is an example of an excel report that is not ADA compliant. The sheets at the bottom of the document are labeled with the default titles, "Sheet1" and "Sheet2."

Compliant Report Example:

This is an example of an excel report that is ADA compliant. The sheets at the bottom of the document are labeled with descriptive titles "User List," User List (2)," and "User List (3)."

And that’s it, by exporting your report as an Excel file and using our 6 step checklist, you can ensure your Excel report is ADA Compliant!

We hope that you have found these tips and visuals helpful and that you feel well equipped to create a report that is accessible to everyone!

Want to explore this further? Check out our non-compliant and ADA compliant sample reports. This interactive sample of an ADA Compliant Report and Non-Compliant Report should help you understand the difference and equipt you to build your own ADA compliant Excel Report!

Starting from ground zero to ensure your digital content and report are accessible and ADA compliant can be hard work. To get you started, we linked some resources below, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1). These guidelines are the widely accepted industry standard for ensuring your digital platform is accessible:


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