Empowering IT professionals to advance accessibility initiatives

Last week, Microsoft hosted the Ignite conference and showcased our latest solutions and innovations to over 20,000 IT professionals seeking to power digital transformation in their organizations. As part of this digital transformation, we partnered with IT professionals to identify ways organizations can advance accessibility initiatives and create more digitally inclusive working environments.

At sessions at Ignite focused on accessibility, we invited accessibility experts to share their real-world experiences, challenges and strategies for making progress in this area with others. We also invited Office 365 product managers to share details about our approach to accessibility and showcase productivity experiences that offer enhanced usability to people with disabilities. Additionally, we discussed enhancements launching in the coming months that will make authoring accessible content easier for everyone including:

  • Accessibility checkers that will become available in the Review tab in several more Office applications for PCs, Macs and the web.
  • Link galleries that will become available in several Office applications for PCs and make it easy to insert hyperlinks with meaningful display text.
  • Automated suggestions for alternative text that will appear when recognizable images are inserted in several Office applications on PCs.

An image inserted in PowerPoint for PCs will get an automatic image description if it can be recognized with confidence by our service. The slide creator will be prompted to review and edit the description. The slide creator will also have the option to allow us to use the picture and caption to make the automatic image description service better.

Updates coming to PowerPoint for PCs to make it easy to add alternative text to images

Watch the full session recordings, review the presentation slides or browse the highlights from our sessions:

  • Panel discussion on technology strategy for an inclusive workplace—This session discusses strategies being adopted by organizations to boost accessibility programmatically. Strategies include ensuring executive leadership, showcasing human impact and forging deep partnerships with vendors.
  • Overview of Office 365 accessibility: plans and progress—This session introduces enhancements on the Office 365 Roadmap that can result in improved productivity experiences for people with dyslexia, people who use assistive technologies such as screen readers or speech input tools to interact with digital information and people who customize their devices using ease of access settings.
  • Deep-dive on SharePoint Online accessibilityThis session covers best practices followed by the SharePoint team to help organizations make intranet sites more inclusive for people with disabilities. Best practices include enhancing accessibility first for the most used features, testing usability with focus groups, including accessibility from day one for new apps and continuously improving based on customer feedback.

We invite you to raise awareness of the accessibility strategies with people in your organization looking for ways to design digital environments where employees with a wide range of cognition, hearing, vision, mobility and speech abilities feel empowered to achieve more. If your organization would like to be among the first to try out the accessibility capabilities discussed in these sessions, we recommend getting Office 365, signing up for First Release options and staying tuned for more details about these capabilities as they release via our Office Accessibility blog series.

We envision a future where everyone can work efficiently and independently from any device, access digital information everywhere without barriers and have fulfilling interactions with others—in person and virtually. Our commitment to offering organizations productivity applications and services that are truly usable by everyone – combined with your organizations’ commitment to procuring accessible technologies and creating accessible content can make this vision a reality. Hear more from a few of the many Microsoft employees who work on advancing accessibility in Office 365 about our vision for the future.

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