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New Accessibility Microsoft Office Online Options

  • Published: 2015-01-12 : Author: Microsoft : Contact:
  • Synopsis: Microsoft new accessibility improvements to give users who are blind and have low vision a better Office Online experience.

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"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."

Microsoft has made the suite accessible to users who are blind and have low vision by using a new web accessibility standard called WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Applications). While this web standard has allowed Office Online to be usable with a screen reader, Microsoft has made some further improvements over the past year to provide an even better experience.

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.

Over the next month, Microsoft 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 Job Access with Speech (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 is a relatively new capability in Office Online created to 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.

There is also an auto complete drop-down menu that displays all of the available accessibility commands.

Simply press enter to make the change. To make the experience even easier, you can use Ctrl + ' (apostrophe) to move your cursor to the Tell Me text box.

Many of the editing and formatting functions can be performed via Tell Me using natural language, so you don't even need to know the specific name of the function you are trying to perform.

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