Microsoft aiming at Digital Inclusion with Acessibility Features in Office 365

Accessibility features in Office 365 get more attention than ever in the new update. All the features accommodated in the update intends to make the popular Office suite more accessible and help in efficient content creation.

If visually challenged/impaired individuals are excluded from formal education opportunities or shunned by the digital community, their prospects could be dampened. This should not be the fate of physically or mentally challenged members anywhere. Office 365 helps to lay the foundation for a more inclusive digital environment in this regard.

It believes that its Assistive Technologies can allow individuals who are differently abled to learn and grow, indistinguishable from any other child. As such, it takes efforts to regularly update its Office apps to help people with disabilities learn and create more accessible content.

Accessibility Features in Office 365

The approach of the company towards this problem is unique and intuitive. It intends to seek answers for three questions that are relevant in this context.

  1. Which assistive technologies are appropriate for the developing world?
  2. How might they be implemented in resource-constrained environments?
  3. And what would their impact be on the children that use them?

Having figured out solutions for these problems, it then tries to build capabilities to empower its customers and create content that is inclusive and readable without friction.

Some of the steps taken recently on this front include-

Accessibility Checker front and center

Office 365 accessibility

A new feature easily visible under Office applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook and Visio under the ‘Review’ tab. The feature helps you create more accessible content by analyzing your material and providing recommendations alongside your document. This proves beneficial in consuming content without barriers by people having varying levels of vision, hearing, cognition and mobility.

Intelligent alternate text for images

Even media-rich presentations and documents can be made accessible to individuals with visual impairments via Intelligent alternate text for images. The smart feature is powered by the Microsoft Computer Vision Cognitive Service. Microsoft claims the feature will only get smarter through machine learning as more people use it and get accustomed to it. With this new feature, Microsoft intends to improve PowerPoint and Word’s intelligent image analysis.

Accessible Items list for hyperlinks

This happens to be last major addition to Accessibility feature in Office 365. Coming to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook on Windows desktops in the next few months for Office 365 subscribers, the feature would allows you to attach hyperlinks to recent cloud-based files or websites and create more meaningful display names for people accessing the document with screen readers.

Accessible content in Outlook

MailTips feature present in the latest iterations of Microsoft Outlook are informative messages displayed to users while they’re composing a message. Now users can enable a MailTip in Outlook on the web which will alert coworkers about the type of accessible content you prefer. When they are composing a message, a notification would popup reminding them to run the Accessibility Checker for making the message accessible to you. The capability would soon be rolled out for Windows desktops in the future. You can get started by visiting Accessibility preferences from the General tab of Outlook on the web settings.

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The author Hemant Saxena is a post-graduate in bio-technology and has an immense interest in following Windows, Office and other technology developments. Quiet by nature, he is an avid Lacrosse player. Creating a System Restore Point first before installing a new software, and being careful about any third-party offers while installing freeware is recommended.

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