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


Hello Brian


Assuming that the NVDA community wants the screen reader to change its behavior and indicate negative numbers as such and not as formatted, what is the precise desired behavior? I use the word precise because that is what the NVDA developers need in order to apply new behavior.


Let’s take the example of bright red to indicate a negative number. Clearly, NVDA cannot simply look at the color format to determine a number’s negativity, it must look at the underlying value of the cell. For example, in the industry where I work, we use conditional formatting to apply red to values that are out of a particular range. Once NVDA determines that the cell contains a negative number, it can then speak its value. However, I would want that value spoken with the applied formatting (e.g. currency, number of decimal places, color, bold, italic, etc.)

Now, what if the value is formatted to use parenthesis to indicate a negative number? Should NVDA speak a negative number or read the parenthesis? If it speaks a negative number, again, it must retain the remaining formatting as above.


As Quentin pointed out, his choices for number and currency formatting are different than mine, suggesting variants due to localization. NVDA would need to consider these variants when applying formatting.


This all works well when moving around from cell to cell and the whole cell value is spoken. What should happen when using the numpad keyboard to read a cell’s content one character at a time? Should it inject a phantom negative sign or should it read the cells content as formatted? What if parenthesis are present, should it ignore them? Currently, when reading by word using the numpad, the negative sign is treated as a separate word. Again, should NVDA inject a phantom negative sign for numbers formatted not to use a negative sign?


I am also concerned that having NVDA check each cell for poorly formatted numbers could impose a performance degradation, resulting in slower response to reading a cell’s content. I would hope that this could be a feature that could be disabled. I, for one, will never create a spreadsheet using these formatting mechanisms.


One last caveat to consider. Only Excel knows the underlying numeric value of these cells. If the cells are copied to Word, only the formatted characters are copied. If the worksheet is printed to a pdf, only the formatted values are present. If the worksheet is printed and later scanned using OCR, only the formatted value is present.


While a band-aid could be applied to NVDA to manage poorly formatted negative numbers in Excel, it does not change the fact that these formats exist outside of Excel and that we as screen reader users must be able to deal with interpreting these archaic methods of representation. Even sighted people must understand the underlying meaning of color to decide if it means a negative number or a out of range value, or whatever the designer meant to convey with color. As I stated earlier, use of color alone to convey meaning violates one of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Educating content creators is another avenue that must not be overlooked.




From: <> On Behalf Of Brian Vogel
Sent: Monday, October 22, 2018 10:18 PM
Subject: Re: [nvda] determining the color of a text in Excel with NVDA



          Thank you.  The long and the short of it is that if accessibility software, any accessibility software, when working with numeric values does not actually speak those numeric values it is creating inaccessibility.   Formatting is nothing but a visual convenience that means something to those with the sensory apparatus to apprehend it.  It is not the essence of the thing.

           Speaking numbers as numbers, currency as currency, text as text, is what determines accessibility.  In the case of Excel, given the preponderance of numeric data contained in spreadsheets, absolutely dictates that a screen reader would indicate to the user what is actually there, and what a sighted reader knows is actually there (and would read that way, too).  If I were being asked to read a negative number, presented to me in any way, to someone who cannot see I would say "negative" or "minus" the value, period.  It's the only way the essential information can be conveyed.  The same should be true regardless of the formatting style chosen for a numeric cell.  Its value is the one and only thing of significance if one is trying to communicate actual meaning.


Brian - Windows 10 Home, 64-Bit, Version 1809, Build 17763  

The terrible state of public education has paid huge dividends in ignorance.  Huge.  We now have a country that can be told blatant lies — easily checkable, blatant lies — and I’m not talking about the covert workings of the CIA. When we have a terrorist attack, on September 11, 2001 with 19 men — 15 of them are Saudis — and five minutes later the whole country thinks they’re from Iraq — how can you have faith in the public? This is an easily checkable fact. The whole country is like the O.J. Simpson jurors.

      ~ Fran Lebowitz in Ruminator Magazine interview with Susannah McNeely (Aug/Sept 2005)



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