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  • Writer's pictureElena Drakulevska

Accessibility features in Power BI you probably didn't know existed

Updated: May 31

As data professionals, we're constantly striving to create reports that effectively communicate insights to our audience. Did you know that within Power BI, there are hidden accessibility features that can enhance the usability for all users—with minimal effort on your part? Today, we're digging into this overlooked aspect of Power BI and exploring how these features can elevate your data visualization projects.

Keyboard showing accessibility keys for different kinds of disability

Understanding Accessibility in Power BI

Accessibility is about ensuring that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can access and interact with digital content. In the context of data visualization, this means designing reports that are easy to understand, navigate, and interact with for all users. Universal design principles emphasize the importance of considering the needs of all users.

Fortunately, Power BI offers a range of hidden accessibility features that align with these principles. These features significantly enhance the user experience by providing tools to create reports that are accessible to everyone, including individuals with diverse abilities.

Accessible themes

Colour plays a vital role in conveying information and high contrast between text and background colours is essentials for readability. According to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1) that contrast ratio should be at least 4.5:1. There are free online tools like Adobe Color Contrast Analyzer or WebAIM where you could check your colour contrast.

However, you should also know that Power BI has some built-in themes that could make your reports more accessible. Head over to the View tab in the ribbon and check out the accessible themes.

Screenshot of the Accessible themes in Power BI that can be found under the View tab
Accessible themes in Power BI

To find out more about accessible colour palettes, check out one of my previous posts Colour me impressed.

Keyboard navigation & Tab order

Keyboard navigation in Power BI isn't just convenient—it's a game-changer for accessibility. By making navigation effortless for those who rely on keyboards for everyday tasks, Power BI ensures inclusivity and accessibility for all users. Whether you're a seasoned keyboard user or simply prefer navigating without a mouse, Power BI's built-in keyboard navigation feature empowers everyone to explore data and create reports with ease. And, it's automatically enabled, without any additional setup required! To ensure a smooth navigation experience, it's crucial to update the Tab order of your visuals to match the way users visually process the report. For western languages like English, the ideal order is from left to right and top to bottom on the report page.

Here's how you can do it:

  1. Go to the View tab in the ribbon.

  2. Under Show panes select Selection to display the Selection pane.

  3. In the Selection pane, click on Tab order to view the current tab order for your report.

  4. Drag objects up or down to reorder them.

  5. Click on the eye next to an object to hide it from the tab order (useful for shapes or images).

Screenshot from Power BI showing how you can navigate to the Selection pane in the View tab
Selection pane in Power BI

Screenshot of the Tab order in Power BI, showing how you can hide a visual by clicking on the eye next to the visual.
Tab order in Power BI

Screen reader compatibility & Alt text

In Power BI, objects with keyboard navigation are compatible with screen readers. When a report user interacts with a visual, the screen reader reads out essential details such as the title, visual type, and any provided alt text.

Alt text is a concise description of visuals or images and it enhances accessibility by conveying their appearance and function to screen reader users. Report developers should include alt text for every object conveying meaningful information.

To add alt text in Power BI Desktop:

  1. Select the object

  2. Navigate to the Format section in the Visualizations pane

  3. Click on Properties

  4. Fill in the Alt Text text box (Keep the description within 250 characters, focusing on the static insight of the visual)

Screenshot of the Format pane in Power BI where you can add Alt text for your visual.
Alt text in Power BI

However, it's important to note that if you add a background image with a title to your report page, the text within that image won't be read by a screen reader. Therefore, ensure that any crucial information is either Text or provided in the Alt text if it's conveyed in an image.

Tips for Implementing Accessibility Features in Power BI

  • Start small and iterate: Begin by incorporating basic accessibility features into your Power BI reports, such as providing alt text for images and optimizing keyboard navigation. As you become more familiar with accessibility principles and tools, gradually expand the scope of accessibility features in your reports.

  • Educate your team: Raise awareness about the importance of accessibility in Power BI report design among your team members. Provide training sessions or resources on accessibility best practices and ensure that accessibility considerations are integrated into the report design process.

  • Leverage built-in accessibility features: Take advantage of the built-in accessibility features provided by Power BI, such as keyboard navigation, and screen reader compatibility. Familiarize yourself with these features and explore how they can be applied effectively to enhance the accessibility of your reports.

Incorporating accessibility features into your Power BI reports not only ensures inclusivity for all users but also enhances the overall user experience and usability. By following the tips and best practices outlined in this blog post, you can create reports that are accessible to everyone.

Stay tuned for more tips about accessibility and UX design--subscribe to MoonStory! In the meantime, check out some more tips about colours and accessible palettes in Colour me impressed.

Happy designing! :)


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