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Accessibility: Graphs and spreadsheets

This guide aims to assist Library staff in providing material for students with additional needs

Graphs and spreadsheets

  • The same rules apply as with adding images - add meaningful alt text and use captions to summarise the main points.
  • A navigation sheet can make it easier to find your way round complex data.
  • Use colour or shading to highlight key areas and add relevant images. Add pop up comments where appropriate to give explanations or instructions.
  • You can use data validation to reduce the likelihood of learners accidentally adding the wrong values and conditional formatting can help to highlight key values.
  • When presenting learners with large spreadsheets make them aware of pivot tables and how they can help to easily navigate complex data sets. 
  • When users are dealing with a large spreadsheet they can work more productively and efficiently if they know how to freeze panes, filter and sort columns. Although these are not specific accessibility features they reduce barriers for people who lack confidence or are easily overwhelmed by numbers.
  • If learners collect results and add them to the spreadsheet, set up a graph to plot the values from the results table. As the data is entered learners will see the developing trends on the graph. This helps them move beyond numbers to what the numbers actually mean.
  • By using slider bars you allow learners to experiment with different values on a graph or in a formula. The use of 'IF statements' can allow you to create self marking exercises and multiple choice exercises.
  • Spreadsheets don't suit all learners and they can cause problems for blind users so it is important to understand the primary teaching objectives of an exercise before adapting the resource. An interactive economics graph showing demand varying with price adds great value for a dyslexic learner but could be far more effectively explained to a blind person using pipe cleaners or Wikki Stix.
  • Creating accessible spreadsheets.
  • Using Microsoft Excel.