Marking Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Today’s post was written by John Jendrezak, accessibility lead and partner director of program management for the Office Engineering team.

Today, Microsoft joins in marking the fifth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)—a day dedicated to raising awareness about making the digital world more accessible. In honor of this day and to help create a more inclusive environment, I encourage all Office 365 users to try three simple things. I also want to provide an update on the work that the Office 365 team is doing to make it possible to create accessible content from any device.

Three things to try today

  1. Before sharing any documents or making any presentations, ensure that the content can be followed by people with varying levels of vision, hearing, cognition and dexterity. One easy way to do this is to run the Accessibility Checker and fix any issues that are flagged. The Accessibility Checker offers guidance on ways to make your content accessible for everyone, including people who use assistive technologies such as screen readers to hear what is displayed on a screen.

You can launch the Accessibility Checker within Office 2016 apps on PCs by entering “check accessibility” in the Tell me what you want to do… text box. Simple changes to things like your hyperlink text, font styles and document structure can enhance the experience for your colleagues with low vision, blindness or dyslexia.

  1. Add subtitles or captions to videos that you share via Office 365 Video. Remember that people who can’t hear rely on you to provide accurate text descriptions of spoken words, background noises and sounds to follow the audio portion in your videos. You might be surprised at how adding captions significantly increases that viewer base of your videos.
  1. Ensure any images and media on SharePoint sites that you own are accessible. People who can’t see need accurate descriptions of any visual content in your sites via alternative text for pictures and audio descriptions for videos.

I hope everyone will make habits out of these practices—as they can have a lasting impact in making home, school and work environments more inclusive for people with disabilities. To get more detailed guidance on these topics, check out these resources for content creators from Office Support including this training on creating accessible documents using Word 2016:

Marking Global Accessibility Awareness Day 1

Upcoming enhancements in Office 365 will aid you in accessible authoring

Previously, I shared our plans that ensure Office 365 applications on all platforms will meet more modern accessibility standards. Today, I am excited to give you an update on our work to enable you to create accessible documents from any device that is part of these plans.

We will be extending the Accessibility Checker (already available in Office for PCs) to Office for Mac. In addition, I am excited to announce Accessibility Checker will be coming to Office Online apps such as Word Online, PowerPoint Online, Excel Online and Sway. These enhancements will enable you to detect accessibility issues in your content on a variety of devices and will be available by the end of the year.

We also want to make it easy for you to begin authoring accessible content from any device. For this, I am excited to announce that we have recently added capabilities to insert or modify alt-text in Word Online for images, tables and charts and will make these available not only to additional Office Online apps but also to Office for iOS and Android apps by the end of the year.

In a complementary blog post, I provided an update on another key initiative that is part of our commitment to ensuring Office 365 apps are usable by people with disabilities: ensuring people can work seamlessly with built-in ease-of-access settings such as High Contrast modes on PCs and accessibility services such as screen readers on mobile devices. In the spirit of advancing accessibility awareness, I invite you to review this as well.

—John Jendrezak