Recognised at Disability-Smart Awards
Last year’s Disability-Smart Awards recognised organisations and individuals that have made an outstanding contribution to disabled people and Microsoft was recognised for its own efforts in ensuring that its products can be used by as many people as possible.
The Business Disability Forum is behind the event which took place in London, and Microsoft was handed the Technology Initiative of the Year for “applying cutting edge technologies to ensure their widely used products were as accessible to as many customers as possible”.
The judging panel further noted the way in which Microsoft has involved disabled people in the development of its technology and “their huge reach which has a significant impact on the everyday and working lives of disabled people”.
Microsoft designs all of its products with accessibility in mind. Just last month, the company announced the introduction of live captions and subtitles for both Skype and PowerPoint, launched to mark the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The move is intended to help the deaf and hard of hearing community by giving them the ability to read what is being spoken in real-time, and it’s in part thanks to the adaptability of Microsoft’s speech recognition technology that this is possible.
For Skype users, they can either choose to see them on every call (one-to-one or group chat) or select them for a single, particular call only. On PowerPoint, with live captions and subtitles due to be introduced later this month for Windows 10, Mac and Online users, 12 spoken languages will be supported at launch.
Another couple of notable features already available in Office were pointed out by Microsoft’s Senior Technology Evangelist Hector Minto when accepting the award: Immersive Reader and Speak.
OneNote’s Learning Tools add-on include the Immersive Reader feature, which provides a full-screen reading experience to improve the readability of OneNote documents for all users. Initially developed to help students with dyslexia and dysgraphia in the classroom, Immersive Reader is a useful feature for anyone wanting to make reading easier on their device, providing voice options to control the voice speed and speaker and text options such as changing the text size, reducing crowding between letters and changing the font and background colour.
Office also includes a built-in text-to-speech feature, Speak, which can read aloud any text in your chosen language. The feature will work across Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and OneNote, depending on your configuration, and you can select certain words, phrases or blocks of text to read aloud, then select the Speak icon, which can be added to the Quick Access toolbar.
There are plenty of other examples of Microsoft’s commitment to accessibility, such as Windows 10’s on-screen keyboard or its support for eye control for those with physical disabilities or mobility limitations, and support for screen readers and keyboard shortcuts. Microsoft has also introduced features helping to address mental health, such as reducing animations and turning off background images and transparency to minimise visual distractions.
By embedding accessibility features in its products, Microsoft is working hard to ensure its products can be used to their fullest.