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Digital Accessibility

Sheet Summary in Excel

Writing a descriptive summary in cell A1 of your Excel worksheet can make your sheet much more understandable for everybody, including screen reader users.

How to Write a Descriptive Sheet Summary

Excel workbooks often contain complex data, with tables that span many rows and columns. Without some context, this data can be difficult for many to read and understand — especially for screen reader users who cannot visually scan through column or row headers. 

By writing a descriptive summary in the first cell (i.e., A1) of each Excel sheet, you can provide this context to your data so that it's easier to find and understand. Your summary should include:

  1. A title for each data table on the sheet.
  2. Relevant context about the data (e.g., applicable years, sampling, etc).
  3. Where the tables(s) begin on the sheet, if not in cell A2. 

Screenshot of a table in Excel with column headers. The sheet summary in cell A1 says: Pell Grant Recipients at USC in the academic year 2022 - 2023 with column headers. Column headers are Pell Grant Status, Percent of Total Enrollment, and Enrollment Headcount.
Example sheet summary: Notice how the sheet summary is within cell A1 and how the table directly follows.

It's generally a best practice to only include one data table per sheet. However, if there are multiple tables that do not begin immediately after the sheet summary, then include their start cell(s) in the sheet summary.

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