5 best accessibility features in Microsoft 365

Software developers and tech companies are striving to expand their customer base by increasing accessibility to their products and services. The Microsoft 365 suite is leading the way in designing accessible interfaces and tools for diverse users in increasingly digital learning and work environments.

Learn more about how Microsoft 365 is innovating accessibility features in their assigned categories -- vision, hearing, neurodiversity, learning, mobility and mental health -- that revolutionize computer usage for a more accepting age.

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1. Eye Control

Mobility disabilities will no longer prevent users from transmitting information or accessing data. If using a keyboard isn’t an accessible option, Microsoft 365 supports Eye Control.

Eye Control allows users to interact with the screen’s contents by blinking or staring. Microsoft refers to this as dwell time since the technology recognizes when eyes linger in specific areas. Users can adjust for precision, so clicking, scrolling and zooming are seamless and accurate.

This feature requires additional peripherals, such as a supported eye-tracking device from Tobii or EyeTech. After setting up and calibrating the device and installing the software, users can adjust settings for general navigation, gaming and shape writing -- an alternative to keyboard typing.

2. Immersive Reader

Whatever kind of reader you are, Immersive Reader can make all reading possible in OneNote, Word and Outlook. With its extensive suite of accessibility settings, nobody will feel excluded from consuming content. It supplements every style of reading by allowing users to:

  • Adjust visual elements like line and letter spacing or background color.
  • Have text read aloud to them at chosen speeds.
  • Dictate to text.
  • Identify parts of speech for improved writing.
  • Breaks up syllables for recognition.
  • Translate other languages.

Immersive Reader also provides teachers with tools to make their classrooms more interactive and accessible. It helps students improve comprehension over multiple languages, strengthen reading comprehension and boost self-esteem. Imagine the power behind this tool when championing educational variances, such as students who are hard of hearing or have dyslexia.

3. Focus Assist

With employee productivity increasing business success by 64 percent, reducing distractions can be highly beneficial. Focus Assist allows anyone with varying attention levels to stay on task while productively digesting information. Feel encouraged to personalize your workspace by reducing moving effects, clutter and notifications. Settings can automate, reacting to the computer’s activity -- such as having different settings for dayshift at-home work versus late-night gaming.

You can also adjust icons for transparency and size, ensuring every bar and menu promotes focused engagement instead of shallow activity.

4. Captions and Subtitles

Captions and subtitles during Microsoft Teams meetings or PowerPoints have never been more convenient and expansive. Presentation Translator works in over 60 languages and viewers can choose their preferred language in larger video conferences to work globally and collaboratively. So long as the device has Microsoft Translator, international communications are simplified with a few clicks.

Microsoft Stream also allows automatic caption generation to make viewers more confident in following the video’s content. As captions generate, a transcript is created in the background for viewers to reference whenever they wish.

5. Soundscape

Soundscape is one of Microsoft 365’s most recent endeavors that recently switched to an open-source model. For six years, Soundscape has redefined geographic experiences, especially for those with impaired vision.

Binaural audio cues provided agency for everyone regardless of activity, including sports or performing everyday activities. Sounds could provide comfort in unknown areas or track movement, connecting individuals wirelessly in case of emergency.

Increasing Accessibility in Technology

While Microsoft 365 provides one of the most exhaustive accessibility suites in technology, the team always encourages further development. The democratization of Internet content should include everyone regardless of accessibility needs.

Other tech companies can look to Microsoft 365 as inspiration for continuing to motivate themselves in accessibility development and conceptualization.

Image credit: Gesrey/ depositphotos

Devin Partida writes about AI, apps and technology at ReHack.com, where she is Editor-in-Chief.

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