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8 ways Microsoft 365 can help your business to be more accessible

Ensuring your intranet, collaboration, and communication tools are accessible and inclusive for all your employees is absolutely vital – but surprisingly the topic is rarely a primary focus for organisations working through a digital transformation.

8 ways Microsoft 365 can help your business to be more accessible

Although creating an accessible intranet can often be part of a legal compliance ‘to do’ list, the gains go far beyond the need to meet government guidelines. The greatest benefits of an accessible communication hub and the tools that surround it is that they can often be more usable and engaging for all staff and can serve to bring people together regardless of circumstance or location.

Often called ‘inclusive design’, accessibility in a digital world means ensuring that technology is working for those employees with barriers to entry and equivalence – such as those with disabilities or disadvantages of learning, access, or circumstance. Many disabled people might use assistive technologies to help them such as: screen readers for the visually impaired; Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices for individuals with speech or hearing challenges; switching devices to control a computer; or literacy support software; and voice recognition software. It’s essential, however, that any digital content can be presented in a way that is compatible with these technologies – and this is where organisations need to be ensuring accessibility in all business platforms.

There are so many ways that Microsoft 365 supports accessibility across all its tools, and beyond. The suite of tools has accessibility built-in from end to end, and apps have been built to seamlessly integrate with assistive technologies and settings on the majority of devices. Here are some of our favourite ways that Microsoft 365 can support accessibility.

Live captions on Teams… and more

Teams live captions is a simple but highly effective feature to make it easier for the hard of hearing or non-native speaker to follow group or one on one meetings and understand what is being said and see who is saying it. Easy to turn on, it will only display for the individual who has turned it on, so share the feature with the group so everyone can benefit. You can also tap into auto-generated subtitles and captions for other content such as videos and presentations in Stream and PowerPoint, and auto-generated transcripts (although not always wholly accurate) can help everyone’s experience and allow you to focus on conversation rather than note taking, by providing comprehensive notes of meetings

Improve your reading ability with Immersive Reader

Free, part of Microsoft 365 and available across the suite including Teams, Word, Outlook and more. The tool helps improve reading and writing regardless of people’s age or ability. It can also really help with employees for whom English is a second language, are looking to build confidence while learning to read, or have learning differences such as dyslexia.

Dictation tool

Apart from being incredibly helpful for anyone with visual impairment or physical disabilities, anyone addicted to dictating texts on their phone will love the dictation tool in Microsoft 365. Allowing you to speak into the microphone of your device instead of using the keyboard to type, dictation is available in a range of languages and is constantly learning and improving sensitivity and accuracy. You can use dictation across Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, and Excel.

Microsoft Narrator tool in Windows 10

Screen reader app Narrator is available in Windows 10 and allows people with visual impairments to read and navigate across the web, email, and documents without the need for a mouse. The tool – which works equally well for multitaskers – can read pages out loud, describe images, and link users to content. Brilliantly, for those who are able to read braille and use a braille display device, you can set up these devices to work with Narrator and customise the experience to meet your own style and preferences.

Text Suggestions feature

For all users, the Text Suggestions feature can help with sentence construction across the Microsoft 365 suite. When this feature is turned on, word suggestions are offered in situ as you type. This is available across Teams, Edge, Word and even PowerPoint and is a great feature for anyone looking to improve their English, or for whom English is a second language.

Colour Filter settings

An estimated 3 million people in the UK (and 300 million across the globe) are colour vision deficient – often referred to as ‘colour blind’ – which can impact their ability to distinguish between different colours (most commonly red, yellow, and green). When websites and system interfaces are designed often the colours used can make it hard for people with colour blindness to see contrast. Think of RAG statuses on spreadsheets, pie charts, bar graphs and imagine how hard it can be to understand the information in the same way as people who don’t have the vision deficiency. The Microsoft Colour Filters setting allows users to customise your screen to Inverted, Greyscale, or Greyscale Inverted making photos, text, and imagery easier to see.

Guidance across apps with Tell Me

Tell Me lets you quickly access commands in several Office apps without navigating the command ribbon. You can use Tell Me to assist with formatting, discover the difficult-to-find capabilities and even get scoped help in the Office apps using everyday language.

Employee ownership

There are some beautifully simple prompts within Microsoft 365 that can help keep accessibility front of mind for all employees. A MailTip in Outlook can help you inform fellow employees of your preference for accessible content and remind them to run Accessibility Checker before sending you an email. This way they can fix any issues that might make the content harder for people with disabilities to consume. With 1 in 8 people living with a disability, making accessibility a standard has never been more important. Using all the accessibility tools available to you across Microsoft 365 helps to create a more inclusive culture, engage every employee, and ensures everyone has a chance to contribute to your business.

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