Does your workplace technology deliver on digital accessibility? While the focus on employee experience has been paramount, the digital transformation we’ve been witnessing over the past few years, it’s important that we don’t forget about making that employee experience universal. This means empowering disabled talent through digital accessibility.
To mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day on Thursday 18th May, Technical Consultant Ben Snape shares his advice and best practices on improving digital accessibility in your organisation.
What is digital accessibility?
Digital accessibility features are baked into every aspect of Microsoft’s product portfolio by design. They make tools available to everyone, empowering and unlocking opportunities for people with disabilities.
Microsoft boasts a whole host of accessibility features across its technology stack, from software and hardware to support across new services like artificial intelligence (AI). Some examples of new features Microsoft have added are sign language view in Microsoft Teams meetings and the PowerPoint screen reader.
In the Enterprise Mobility and Security (EM&S) team here at Content+Cloud, we focus on the accessibility features that are built into Windows 11. Let’s take a look at some of the tools we’ve been helping clients get to grips with.
Windows 11 accessibility tools
In Windows 11, digital accessibility starts with the out-of-the-box experience (OOBE). Right from the initial device set up in OOBE, you can select your accessibility features – and the full range of features is also available after you’ve completed set up. The accessibility features are split into three main categories: vision, hearing and interaction.
Vision accessibility features
The built in Windows 11 screen reader, Narrator, allows you to hear what’s on your screen. You can adjust light and colour controls, including dark theme, adjusting brightness and increasing contrast.
For a more accessible screen experience, you can personalise your cursor, text size and colour, as well as use Magnifier to zoom in on words and images. One of the features that I use is adding tails to the cursor – this makes it easy to track its position. I can also press Ctrl to highlight its position.
Hearing accessibility features
Windows 11 offers you the ability to switch on live captions to automatically transcribe spoken word from any audio on your device, including from the microphone.
For those using audio, you can alter sound settings in Windows 11 to combine left and right stereo audio into single-channel audio.
Interaction and mobility features
Windows 11 mobility features make it easy to interact with your device however suits you best. A new feature in preview, voice access, allows you to command and control your device using your voice and voice typing to pen documents or emails, while eye control makes it easy to navigate your screen by following your gaze.
Which digital accessibility technology tools do you need?
At Content+Cloud, we aim to promote digital accessibility features to our clients. Our EM&S team works with you to gather requirements as early as possible so that we can support clients in delivering the digital accessibility features that they need.
What’s next for Microsoft’s accessibility tools
Earlier this year, I attended the Microsoft Ability Summit, which is an annual event that started in 2010. This year, there were more than 20,000 attendees from over 100 countries. The summit was hosted online and you can catch up with recordings of the sessions if you missed it.
The summit was an empowering event with a wide range of speakers and technologies, including AI, which played a big part. For me, some of the highlights were around inclusive design and accessibility assistance tools.
One of the exciting announcements included the Microsoft Inclusive Design toolkit, a set of guidelines for building products for people of all abilities. Microsoft has updated this to include Inclusive Design for Cognition, which encourages people to create with diversity of human cognition in mind.
Helping to make your work more accessible
As we mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day on Thursday 18 May, it’s important to highlight the importance of digital accessibility – in a report by WebAIM, 96% of home pages on the web had at least one accessibility error. These issues can run even deeper when you look into emails, documents and spreadsheets that people use every day.
During the Ability Summit, Microsoft announced the Accessibility Assistant in Microsoft 365. This is a powerful set of tools that will help you produce more accessible content with less effort – all within your natural ways of working.
Making packaging more accessible with AI
Consumer health brand Haleon has been working with Microsoft to expand the functionality of the Seeing AI app for barcodes of its products in the UK and the US. By holding their phone camera over the barcode, consumers can get the app to read out the product name and all the text on the packaging. This helps to make the brand’s products more accessible for people who can’t read the packaging.
Microsoft 365 accessibility tips – what can you do?
We can all do our bit to make technology more accessible for everyone – here are our tips for best practices you can follow:
- Run the ‘Check accessibility’ feature under the Review tab in Office apps – this ensures your documents can be accessed by as many people as possible
- Turn on your camera in Teams meetings and enable recording and transcription once you’ve made everyone aware you’re recording – make sure to identify yourself when you start speaking
- Try the Immersive Reader in Word when reviewing documents, play around with the page colour and text spacing to see what works for you
Considerations for digital accessibility
If you’re a leader in your organisation, you can do more to ensure people with disabilities aren’t underserved by technology. Here are some actions that could help:
- Create an employee resource group in your organisation to improve accessibility
- Use key performance indicators to track disability inclusion
- Find out about the features available to you in Windows 11