Data Reporting

First year students walk in parade

We all report data frequently, but it is important to think about how we can do that in an accessible way. People who use screen readers will struggle to navigate complicated tables, and complicated graphics can be equally difficult to access. It is, therefore, important to think about how to best represent data in a way that all users can access.  Data is often represented in Word documents through tables, charts and diagrams, and images.  

Tables are commonly used to display data.  Data is typically displayed in rows and columns and includes the reporting of specific metrics across multiple categories. As often as possible, the use of tables should be limited. If used, the data tables should be simplified to ensure only the most relevant data is presented in as simple a format as possible. 

When representing data, images should be avoided if possible. For example, rather than creating an image of a chart or table, it would be better to ensure it is created in Word or imported from Excel. This will allow for additional edits that cannot otherwise be done with an image alone. Unfortunately, the only key accessibility feature of images is the ability to add alt-text.  It is unlikely that alt-text alone will overcome the variety of accessibility challenges that arise using charts, tables, and graphics.  

Learn More about Accessible Data Reporting

Data Reporting Suggestions

  • Do not use tables for formatting  
  • Simplify tables 
  • Avoid fixed width tables  
  • Avoid split and merged cells 
  • Include a header row 
  • Add alt-text to the table 
  • Include a table caption  
  • Avoid blank cells 
  • Always include clear labels on tables 
  • Don't use images of tables 

  • Simplify charts and diagrams 
  • Use more than color to represent meaning  
  • Add data labels  
  • Add patterns to ensure multiple representations   
  • Add alt-text to the chart 
  • Include the data used for the chart in an accessible table  
  • Provide a written description of chart or diagram