Once you have applied accessible formatting to the text of your document (see the previous blog), it’s time to add some illustrative figures. Whether it’s a table or a chart, follow these simple formatting tips to clearly present your data to the widest possible audience.
Present the data in the most obvious, clear arrangement you can, to help all users navigate your tables successfully. Use the simplest table layout possible, and keep the layout regular, avoiding merging cells or leaving empty cells.
In addition, be careful in identifying a heading row. Emboldening or colouring text is a common way of identifying heading rows, but this does not identify text as a heading to screen readers. If you do not formally identify headings, users who rely on this assistive technology will hear a long stream of data, mixed into an the order which may well differ to that desired by the creator, and difficult to understand. An example is shown below:
To designate a Header Row ensure the corresponding check box is ticked in Table Tools, Design Tab . There are also options for a Total Row and First Column Row. Each option communicates the location of the Headers. An example is shown below:
If the table spans several pages, column headings should be repeated at the top of the table on each page. As an example, this is how you do it for a table in a Word document :
1. Select the Heading fields
2. Select Layout, Select Repeat Header Rows
A screen reader can now read the table in a variety of ways depending on the user settings as the headings have been identified.
It is also helpful to those using screen readers to include a general description of the chart, to aid navigation. This is how you do it:
1. Right click the table
2. Select Table Properties by right clicking on the table and then
3. Select Alt Text at the end of the tabs on the top row
Many charts rely heavily on colour to identify different data categories. Colours can be perceived very differently by many people and so it is wise not to rely on colour alone to differentiate between data categories. Make sure you do not identify elements by colour alone, but always label with accessible text as well. If you use colour, consider using the same colour with differing shades to enable identification on the basis of the intensity of colour rather than the particular shade. Consider using a pattern fill instead, to identify the different elements for easy black and white viewing.
Below are some examples of how to do it… and how not to!
Accessible Bar Chart Examples: The data is clear and the displayed in a way that colour is not the only way to distinguish between the categories
It is also helpful to those using screen readers to include a general description of the chart, to aid navigation. As an example, this is how you do for a chart in Excel :
1. Right click the chart
2. Select Format Chart Area
3. Select Alt Text and enter a description
The careful choice of colours, use of formal table headers and alt text are small modifications that are not particularly time consuming, but can make all the difference between whether your data can be understood, or not. These are good habits to get into, even if you are not expecting anyone with a sight problem to access your documents.
For further information on improving tables and figures click here .
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