Microsoft will add an Accessibility Assistant to Microsoft 365, a boon for those who have trouble seeing, but also a feature you may see crop up while you’re writing in Word or designing PowerPoint presentations.
Keep an eye out for a small “person” icon next to paragraphs or bullet points—if you do, that’s a signal that you should revise your content to make it more legible.
Five years ago, Microsoft launched the Accessibility Checker, a small tool that helped creators ensure content was legible. The Accessibility Assistant will improve upon that, stealing design elements from Microsoft Editor. In fact, you’ll eventually see the Accessibility Assistant pane in Word and other Microsoft 365 apps, which looks like Editor’s recommendations sidebar for identifying and remediating issues. It’s due later this year, Microsoft said. Given that accessibility is becoming increasingly important in businesses, you’ll likely see the feature as part of your business environment.
Accessibility Assistant will begin with the features that Accessibility Checker already covers, making sure your copy is colored appropriately to provide high contrast and visibility. A related color picker will appear in Word, PowerPoint, and other apps, highlighting which colors will be highly visible in your current layout. You may also be prompted to review the alt-text in any images you provide. Those captions/alt-text snippets are provided via AI, but reviewing them will help ensure an accurate description.
Eventually, the Assistant will incorporate other features as well, which Microsoft will add on to. Microsoft Editor already examines your content for inclusiveness and language; the Accessibility Assistant will do the same. Each “issue” it highlights will be linked to the appropriate text block, so you can make quick changes in your copy.
At Microsoft’s Accessibility Summit, the company announced the Accessibility Assistant as well as some other improvements: more languages for its Translator app, porting the accessories for its Microsoft Business Pen to the Surface Pen, and automatic image captioning on LinkedIn. Microsoft’s Seeing AI app for mobile, which uses your phone’s camera to identify objects around you for the benefit of those who have trouble seeing, also added 1,500 new objects, Microsoft said.