Microsoft today announced its December updates for Office 365, and this time around, there’s a big focus on accessibility improvements.
“Earlier this month, we covered a number of accessibility updates for Office 365 that help lay the foundation for a more inclusive digital environment,” Microsoft corporate vice president Kirk Koenigsbauer explains. “These improvements address both the creation and consumption phases when working with documents. Particularly noteworthy are capabilities built to empower all customers to create content that is inclusive and readable without friction.”
As with last month’s updates, we see a much more manageable set of improvements this time around. Key among them are:
Improved Accessibility Checker
Availability: Now available in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook and Visio on Windows desktops and in several Office for Mac and Office Online applications.
Microsoft has improved its Accessibility Checker by making it much more discoverable: Just navigate to the Review tab and select Check Accessibility. this tool “analyzes your material and provides recommendations alongside your document, helping you understand how to fix errors and create more accessible content over time,” Koenigsbauer says.
Auto alt-text for images
Availability: Coming soon for PowerPoint and Word on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers. Coming later to “more apps and platforms.”
PowerPoint and Word will soon be able to automatically suggest alt-text (alternative text descriptions) for images you insert into your documents, making them more accessible for those with visual impairments. Because it is powered by Microsoft’s Powered by the machine learning capabilities of Microsoft Computer Vision Cognitive Service, this capability will get smarter as more people use it, Microsoft says.
New MailTip for accessible content
Availability: Available now on Outlook on the web. Coming soon to Outlook on Windows desktops.
Now, you can enable a new MailTip that will alert your co-workers that you prefer accessible content. “The prompt they see while composing email to you reminds them to run Accessibility Checker before sending,” Koenigsbauer explains.
Recent Items list for hyperlinks
Availability: Coming to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook on Windows desktops in the next few months for Office 365 subscribers, and to the Office Mobile apps on Windows and Android in the next few months.
A new Recent Items list that appears when you click to insert a hyperlink will help you attach hyperlinks with meaningful display names for recent cloud-based files or websites.