Empower Your Whole Team With These Accessibility Tips

At ComputerWorld, our business is innovation and transformation, and our passion is ensuring that everyone has access to the tools needed to contribute fairly. Our purpose is to Enable People through Technology, which is why days like the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is important for us to talk about. Worldwide IDPD Day promotes the understanding of disability issues and encourages the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities. With 14.6 million people in the UK with Disabilities, we really need to start a conversation about how our technological tools can aid and enhance working practices to make life that little bit easier.

We recognise that diversity and difference bring many benefits and we celebrate everyone’s uniqueness. But to affirm this we need a deeper understanding of the tools available to really help the unique needs of different people. 

This article includes some top tips, that we think you and others will find useful.

1. The Read Aloud Function

If you struggle with reading, proofreading, or concentration when working on documents, then Read Aloud can help you. It’s a text-to-speech function in Microsoft Word, which simply reads out the text on the page as it is written.

To use Read Aloud in Word, click on Review in your options bar (1). Then click the Read Aloud button (2). 

If you want to review a specific paragraph or sentence, highlight the words or paragraphs you want to hear, rather than the whole document. 

2. The Live Captions tool

If you have hearing difficulties or struggle with comprehension, Live Caption is another great tool. It enables you to transcribe the audio in any media, microphone, or remote conversations, so, you can see what’s being said and not miss a thing. 

To enable closed captions, click windows (1) and then settings (2).

Search for ‘captions’ (3) and select ‘closed captions (4). Here you will be able to make adjustments to the settings to suit your specific requirements.

Don’t forget to turn on Live Captions in your Teams meetings!

3. A range of computer screen options

Do you have sight difficulties, have colour vision deficiency, or suffer from headaches or migraines? There is a range of options and features available in Microsoft Windows to help you work by adjusting the lighting, colour, and contrast on your screen. 

To turn on these features, press the Start button (1) and select Settings (2).

Search for Ease of Access (3) and show all results (4). Here you will have a number of different options to adjust to your specific requirements.

Some of the items you are able to adjust include text size, contrast themes, mouse pointer, touch, colour filters …and more. You can also use the Magnifier feature to enlarge all or part of your screen so that you can see words and images more clearly. 

4. Tools to boost accessibility for people with neurodiversity

Neurodiversity describes how people experience and interact with the world around them in a variety of ways. It’s often used when talking about Autism Spectrum Disorder and other neurological or developmental conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It simply means that everyone is unique, and the way that they work should be personalised to their specific requirements and needs. It is estimated that 15% of people in the UK are neurodivergent so we should be aware of available support tools. 

Microsoft has come up with several options which allow you to tailor your Windows platform to meet neurodiversity-related needs and make everyday working easier. 

You can set up your workspace to enhance your work experience – from clearing clutter and minimising distractions, to keeping lists with deadline reminders, improving comprehension and more. There are many ways you can make your Windows experience unique to you. Microsoft has a whole page of neurodiversity-related accessibility tools, features, and functions to help you do this. You can find them here

5. Tools to improve physical mobility and accessibility

Microsoft also provides a range of functions to assist you if you have physical needs that your technology should assist with. These can help if you’re living with arthritis, quadriplegia, spinal cord injuries, and other mobility-related needs. These tools will support you in navigating the digital world in non-traditional ways.

Microsoft has a dedicated page that outlines all of these accessibility features which you can use through Microsoft Windows. These are specifically designed to improve your working experience if you have limited reach, strength, dexterity, or physical/mobility disabilities. Click here to find out more.