Microsoft is adding an Accessibility Assistant to Microsoft 365, a boon for those who have trouble seeing, but also a feature that can appear as you type in Word or design PowerPoint presentations.
Look out for a small “person” icon next to paragraphs or bullet points; if it does, it’s a sign that you should revise your content to make it more readable.
Five years ago, Microsoft released the Accessibility Checker, a small tool that helped creators ensure content was readable. The Accessibility Wizard will improve on that, stealing design elements from Microsoft Editor. In fact, you’ll eventually see the Accessibility Assistant panel in Word and other Microsoft 365 apps, which looks like the editor’s recommendations sidebar for identifying and fixing problems. It is scheduled for later this year, Microsoft said. With accessibility becoming more and more important in businesses, you’ll likely see the feature as part of your business environment.
The Accessibility Wizard will start with the features already covered by the Accessibility Checker, making sure that your copy is appropriately colored to provide high contrast and visibility. A related color picker will appear in Word, PowerPoint, and other applications, highlighting which colors will be highly visible in your current design. You may also be asked to review alt text on any images you provide. Those subheadings/alt text snippets are provided via AI, but reviewing them will help ensure an accurate description.
Eventually, the Assistant will also incorporate other features, which Microsoft will add. Microsoft Editor already vets the inclusion and language of your content; the Accessibility Assistant will do the same. Each “issue” you highlight will link to the appropriate text block, so you can make quick changes to your copy.
At the Microsoft Accessibility Summit, the company announced the Accessibility Assistant, as well as a few other improvements: more languages for its Translator app, porting your Microsoft Business Pen accessories to the Surface Pen, and automatic captioning of images on LinkedIn. Microsoft’s Seeing AI mobile app, which uses your phone’s camera to identify objects around you for the benefit of those who have trouble seeing, also added 1,500 new objects, Microsoft said.