Accessibility in Technology

Technology now advances at an exponential rate – especially when compared to that of the previous 100 years. Change to the technology we use are no longer ‘big bang’ but rather incremental. Applications have features released over time and new functionality is being added to improve the user experience and application offering.

You may not have noticed that Microsoft has been adding various features to both Windows 10 , Office 365 and the Office suite in recent times to improve the user experience for those who have accessibility requirements. Over One Billion people in the world (that’s about one in six) have a disability according to the World Health Organisation. Yet 70% of conditions aren’t visible. Microsoft aims to support as many as possible with its features and ensure that those without visible disabilities have the same chances and opportunities for information.

With a workforce that now support five different generations, we need to ensure that technology people use and access is inclusive and accessible. It’s estimated that around 13.9 million people in the UK have a disability. According to disability charity Scope, if a million more people with disabilities could work, the UK economy alone would grow by 1.7%, or £45bn.

There are different types of accessibility requirements depending on the following:

A Permanent Disability, estimated to be around 26,000 in the USA. Examples might be:

  • One Arm
  • Blind
  • Deaf
  • Non-verbal

A Temporary Disability, estimated to be around 13 Million in the USA. Examples might be:

  • Arm Injury
  • Cataract
  • Ear infection
  • Laryngitis

Then there are those who require additional support because of the situation they find themselves in (Situational), estimated to be around 8 Million in the USA. Examples might be:

  • New parent
  • Distracted Driver
  • Bartender
  • Heavy accent

You may think that Microsoft has a mission to build great software, or make the best operating systems in the world. However, you’d be wrong – those are secondary to their real objective. Microsoft’s mission is ‘to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more’. This empowerment comes in the form of many new features, hardware and applications that increase the accessibility offering across the Microsoft suite.

Let’s take a look at a few of the features that are available, starting with just Windows 10:

Windows 10: Colour filters – Colour filters are designed to help those who are colour blind or are challenged by particular colour combinations. Colour filters change the colour palette on the screen and can help distinguish between things that differ only by colour.

Microsoft Colour Filters Screen Shot

Windows 10: Font size – If the size of text in Windows is too small to read, then you can increase the size of text across Windows and not just within certain apps.

Microsoft Font Size Screen Shot

Windows 10: Speech to Text (Narrator) – If you require written words to be read out, you can set Narrator to read out the text on the screen. It will also describe events like calendar appointments and notifications.

Microsoft Narrator Screen Shot

Windows 10: Magnifier – If you need part of a screen to be bigger, you can use the magnifier to increase a certain part of the screen.

Microsoft Magnifier Screen Shot

These are just a few of the features build into Windows 10 under the ‘Ease of Access’ settings. Next time I’ll be looking at the further accessibility features available in Office and Microsoft Teams.