Imagine if Clippy didn’t shy away and instead made some really helpful suggestions to ensure the content you create is accessible to as wide an audience as possible. That’s the idea behind a new tool that Microsoft announced today at its annual convention. Microsoft Capabilities Summit. New “Accessibility Wizardfor Microsoft 365 office software is like a spelling or grammar checking tool that will tell users how to prevent and fix accessibility issues in real time while creating content.
A new person icon will be used to point out the location of accessibility issues in your work, such as low contrast between text and background – the most common accessibility issue that occurs in Word documents, according to Microsoft. Accessibility Assistant will start rolling out “in the coming weeks” and will eventually replace Microsoft 365’s current Accessibility Checker, a similar tool that checks if content is readable for people with disabilities, but only after you asked him.
Microsoft also announced that customizable 3D printed attachments and grips will be available for the Surface Pen later this year. These adaptive accessories allow users with mobility issues to hold and control a stylus more easily and are already available for Microsoft Business Pen and Microsoft Classroom Pen 2.
Support for 13 new African languages, including Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo, has been added to Microsoft’s translation tool, which enables users to communicate across language and accessibility barriers with textual and verbal translations. And finally, LinkedIn adds auto-generated alt text descriptions and captions using Azure Cognitive Services, Microsoft’s collection of cloud-based AI features for developers. Microsoft notes that 40% of LinkedIn posts contain at least one image, and while auto-generated image captions and descriptions tend to cause problems, it’s certainly better than nothing.
Microsoft’s Accessibility Assistant doesn’t have much to do Againinitially offering similar functionality to Accessibility checker it is intended to replace. But seeing how it compares to correctional tools like Grammarly (at least visually speaking) is neat, and with more updates, who knows what kind of issues it’s going to lay bare for me. I can’t wait to be humbled by my potentially inaccessible writing habits.