Re: determining the color of a text in Excel with NVDA

Laurie Mehta

Excellent post-- thank you Rick!

And, for whatever it's worth, I hope that NVDA maintains the way it reads such things currently since we could end up with some unwanted/unforeseen consequences if simply reading the color displayed is replaced with something else. Thanks,


On Mon, 10/22/18, Rick <softwarethatworks@...> wrote:

Hello Mary and Quentin:
After following this thread since its beginning, I took some time to open Excel and play with number formatting. Excel essentially provides 4 standard ways to format negative numbers and currency:
• With a leading negative sign
• Bright red without a negative sign
• With parenthesis
• Bright red with parenthesis
The case Mary seems to describe is the second, where negative numbers are simply bright red without a negative sign. As Quentin pointed out, you could set NVDA to alert for color changes to signal negative numbers.
This case clearly violates WCAG guideline 1.4.1, do not use color alone to convey meaning. While I understand that it may be a common practice to format negative numbers in red, one would hope this practice would be deprecated as we move towards a more accessible world. This is not only bad for screen reader users but also a problem with printing on black and white printers and for people with some forms of color blindness.
Mary, are you able to contact the spreadsheet creator and explain the accessibility issue with the chosen display format? Otherwise, are you able to edit the spreadsheet to change the formatting option? If you select the range of cells, press the application key and select format cells. Tab a few times to get to how negative numbers are formatted and choose a more accessible format for yourself. The first tab should get you to the category, which is probably currency. The next tab is for number of digits after the decimal point. Next is the currency symbol. One more tab gets you to the negative number format. Now, use the up and down arrow to select your desired format (the top one is the conventional negative number sign). Remember, if you choose a format which uses parenthesis that your NVDA symbol level is set to most or all or you will not hear left parenthesis spoken when the number is spoken.
I formatted some negative numbers to display in the inaccessible format and ran the built-in accessibility checker. Sadly, it reported no errors. I reported this issue to Microsoft so hopefully it will be corrected in future versions.
From: <> On Behalf Of Mary Otten
Sent: Monday, October 22, 2018 11:12 AM
Subject: Re: [nvda] determining the color of a text in Excel with NVDA
Thanks, Quentin, for answering the question. I didn’t send the sheet I have a long, because it’s not something that I personally have control of. It’s an organization who owns the sheet. So I didn’t feel right about just sending it out since it’s financial. With regard to the question of what should be overwritten or not, it seems to me that if this color convention is well-established, any sighted person using the sheet is going to know that red means negative. Therefore, the important information is not the color it’s the state of the number. So it should be overwritten. What you want is the message conveyed by the color, not just knowledge of the color. As a blind person, you might not know that red  means negative, so you might not get the message. It would be like those talking signals they have where it says the walk sign is on. It doesn’t say the green light is on. I suppose most everybody knows that a green light means walk. But they convey the message about walking, rather than the fact that the light is green or that the little stick figure is on or whatever the picture is. Another example is the dots which means that there is a dialog box. Some screen readers like Jaws used to say…. Others would say opens a dialogue or has dialogue. I think the ones who say opens or has dialogue got it right, and the ones who say… Didn’t get it right. Why on earth would I necessarily know or need to know that… Means there’s a dialogue that will open if you click this.

On Oct 21, 2018, at 9:46 PM, Quentin Christensen <quentin@...> wrote:
I did also reply to Brian's other thread on this topic, and while I'm just personally interested in the discussion, I realised no-one has actually answered Mary's original question yet.  While you can't specifically have NVDA decode negative numbers which aren't formatted as such, you can have NVDA report when the font colour changes.  This would be most useful where you spreadsheet contains say all black text except for negative numbers.  To do that, press NVDA+CONTROL+D to open the document formatting options, then press alt+c to jump to "colour".  Press spacebar to toggle whether that is checked (you want it checked to report colour changes), and press ENTER to close the settings.  Now when you get to a negative number, NVDA should report it as "bright red".
As for why it is reported as "bright red 18.00" and not "-18.00", basically, that's what the person who setup the spreadsheet told Excel to tell us.  A sighted user on the same sheet doesn't see "-18.00", they see "18.00" in bright red, and interpret that to mean -18.  In the same way if the actual contents of the cell are "=A1-B1" they see the number, not the formula, unless you press CONTROL+` to toggle displaying formulas instead of values.
I can see Brian's argument for overriding the specified formatting here, but would have to then ask back - in which cases should we override what the creator of the spreadsheet has deliberately setup, and in which cases should we defer to what they wanted?

On Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 4:20 PM Pranav Lal <pranav.lal@...> wrote:
Hi all,

Can someone share a sample sheet with this kind of formatting?


Quentin Christensen
Training and Support Manager
Official NVDA Training modules and expert certification now available: 
Twitter: @NVAccess

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