Microsoft improving Office 365 to better cater to the visually impaired

By: Vamien McKalin
2 minute read

Microsoft wants Office 365 to be more accessible to the visually impaired and others with disabilities. This is something the company has been working on across its wide range of products for a number of years now, so to see Office 365 fall in line should come as no surprise.

By adding more accessibility features, Microsoft could potentially attract more users to its platform. There are many accessibility features the software giant wants to touch on, but right now, it’s focusing mainly on the visually impaired and how to get them to experience Office 365 from a different standpoint.

According to John Jendrezak, accessibility lead and partner director of program management for the Office Engineering team, Microsoft is celebrating the 5th Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The plan is to talk about Office 365 accessible features along with adjusting high contrast themes.

People with certain vision impairments, such as cataracts, rely on High Contrast themes to see apps and content with less eye strain. Without the High Contrast mode turned on, PC icons on the Office ribbon may not be very visible to someone with reduced contrast sensitivity.

These ribbon enhancements in Office 365 for PCs, along with similar enhancements in dialogs such as “Add a chart” and in backstage areas such as “Print Settings,” are the first to become available to Office 365 users this year to make it easier to work in High Contrast Black mode. To try it out and see if it will be a good fit for you, press Left Alt + Left Shift + Print Screen on your keyboard. More enhancements are coming soon to improve the experience in High Contrast mode with shapes, pictures and SmartArt in Office 365 apps.”

For those on mobile devices, Microsoft wants to use audio to help the visually impaired know and understand what’s being displayed on screen. According to the  Office 365 roadmap, these features are not too far away. We’ll be talking about them once they are officially released in a future update.

We applaud Microsoft for making these moves, especially seeing as there are now open source alternatives to Office 365 that might gain a lot of traction in the months to come.

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