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Accessible (508) Excel Presentations

Document Type: Standard


Excel files must be Section 508 compliant or the content contained made accessible through accommodation. The application of the Excel standard will be dependent upon the purpose of the Excel file (see Exemptions):

If the purpose of the Excel worksheet is to present a data set, the Excel file should be presented on the web as a Comma Separated Value (CSV) file and not as an xls file. The link must clearly state that the CSV is a raw data set. A separate data definition document must accompany all CSV files. An Excel data set that would be presented as a CSV has the following characteristics:
  • A single row of headings in the first row.
  • The data set contains no formulas.


Excel is a widely used/distributed application used by both the general public and business. While most site visitors have the full MS Excel program, which is 508 compliant, the free MS Excel downloadable reader is not compliant.


Excel workbooks must observe the following:

  • Workbook properties for title, subject, keywords author, and language must be included;
  • All images in the worksheets with informational value must include alternative text;
  • Decorative images must not have alternative text added;
  • Each worksheet must have an appropriate name in the tab at the bottom on the workbook;
  • Column and row headings must be labeled;
  • Charts/graphs must include axis information.

Workbooks posted as .XLS only must include a link to the Excel viewer. See the related standard: Provide File Type and Size with Downloadable Files.


Excel files may be granted an accommodations waiver when:

Files contain program modules and macros developed to perform automated analysis or to draw in data sets from external or legacy databases.