Microsoft Releases New Accessibility Enhancements For Office Online

Microsoft today announced accessibility enhancements to Office Online to make the suite more accessible to blind and low vision users. They are using a new web accessibility standard called WAI-ARIA to make it more usable with a screen reader.

Location and formatting information:

Moving around in a document with just text has been straightforward. Now with Narrator enabled, you will hear formatting information read out loud when you use the arrow keys to navigate in a document. Narrator will announce information about lists, tables, headings, and more. To enable Narrator, press the Windows Key + Enter.

Reading without moving the cursor through the document:

Over the next month, we will roll out support for virtual reading for documents of up to three pages in Word Online and OneNote Online. If you’re not familiar with virtual reading, it’s a concept that most screen readers have that allows you to have text read out loud, without having to move your cursor. Narrator has a shortcut called “Start Reading” (Caps Lock + M), which reads the rest of the document based on your current location. This shortcut works when using Word Online and OneNote Online. If you’re using JAWS, be sure to turn on Virtual Cursor (Insert + Z) to start using these capabilities. Virtual navigation features that attempt to move your cursor will not work with this feature.

Tell Me:

Tell Me is a capability in Office Online designed to help you save time. In the Tell Me text box, located on the ribbon, you can type what you want the app to do for you—rather than having to navigate through the ribbon. For example, if you are in Word Online and want to change the orientation of your document to from portrait to landscape, in the Tell Me box type, “landscape.”

Read more about it here.

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