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Last week I wrote about what accessibility is and who it's for, and this past Monday I talked about what accessibility features are already available to you in Windows. For today's post (which is the last one in this series) I'm going to give you a snapshot of what accessibility features and technologies are available Office and also how and why to make your documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other Office files accessible to ALL people.
All versions of Office (Office 2000 and up) have all had some sort of accessibility features built into them but I have to say, Office 2010 has really stepped it up.
Backstage view Actions previously found on the File menu or Microsoft Office button (such as Print and Save) can now be found in the Backstage view. Commands are more logically arranged, easier to get to, and provide the detail and context that you need. No more hunting and pecking through cavernous menus.
Mini Translator At times you may receive email messages or documents that contain words in unfamiliar languages. Using the Mini Translator, you just point to a word or phrase with your mouse and the translation displays in a small window. The Mini Translator also includes a Play button so you can hear how the word is pronounced. (Don't get me started about the words "niche" and "forte"; I have a French mother...)
Full Screen Reading View This view improves the resolution and display of text for reading on the screen.
Use the keyboard to work with Ribbon programs The menus and toolbars in all Office 2010 programs have been replaced with the ribbon. To move through the ribbon with a keyboard instead of a mouse, you can press CTRL+RIGHT ARROW or CTRL+LEFT ARROW on a ribbon tab to move to the next or previous ribbon group tab. Nifty.
Now, some techniques that help you, as the author, make your content more accessible to everyone.
Our very own Turi Henderson wrote three articles about how to create fully accessible Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations using Office 2010 and 2007.
Using alt text Alternative text has traditionally been used for images (or any other sort of graphical representation) on the web. It basically makes it easier for people using a screen reader (used by folks with vision impairments) to understand the content of the pictures. And now, with Office 2010, you can add alt text to images, charts, tables, shapes, SmartArt graphics or any other objects in your Office files. And that means that more people will be able to appreciate and understand the objects you created.
Creating accessible PDFs Karen McCall, a Microsoft Word MVP who writes and teaches about creating accessible Office documents, contacted someone on the Office team suggesting that the Crabby Office Lady update her ancient column about accessibility. Since I don't write the column anymore (just the blog and work in other social network activities) I didn't really know what I wanted to do so I just started reading up on accessibility. And boy did I learn a lot.So, as I started looking over Karen's site and digging deeper into what accessibility really IS, who it's FOR, and why it really is an important topic to consider, I found myself hip-deep in research (hence the last two weeks' worth of lengthy articles disguised as blog posts. (*Good thing my managing editor trusts me and my instincts enough to humor me; thanks Holly).The point (finally!): Now that you can create PDFs from Office 2010 programs (and Office 2007 programs too, if you've installed either the Office 2007 Service Pack 2 OR with a save-as-PDF add-in), people are doing it like it's going out of style. Therefore it IS important that you create accessible PDFs too. Just because you've done your homework and created a perfectly accessible Word document, when you save it as a PDF, unless you take some steps, you're not guaranteed a perfectly accessible PDF is going to pop out. Take a look at Karen McCall's information on creating accessible PDFs.
Finally, here are three really interesting and important articles I hope you'll take the time to look at:
And that wraps up my four part accessibility series; I hope it was helpful to you. If you think it doesn't apply to you (which, as I've said before. I disagree with) will you please pass it on to someone whom you think can really use this information? In any case, hope that at least some of you have gotten something out of this series; I know I did. I did a lot of research, talked to a lot of people and frankly, I'm amazed by what people do, how they do it, and that they do it at all!
Crabby's Find of the Day: Realize your full potential (A video about enabling people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential, featuring a woman who is signing for the hearing impaired.)