Microsoft is launching Accessibility Assistant in Microsoft 365, a new set of tools designed to help creators produce more accessible content while in the flow of work.
The Redmond, Wash. IT giant says the Accessibility Assistant expands on the existing Accessibility Checker by introducing better defaults to prevent issues before they occur, real-time and in-context remediation to correct issues on the go, and guidance that appears in the flow of work.
Included in the tools is a new color picker in Microsoft 365 apps that accounts for both creative license and the need for sufficient contrast between text and background. The tool has two modes, according to a Microsoft blog.
“One looks much the same as before but adds a tooltip to help guide you toward colors with sufficient contrast,” Microsoft says in the blog. “While toggling the high-contrast switch takes you to the other experience, which narrows the available color options that meet contrast requirements (plus an additional row of accessible options that align with the selected theme and design).”
The company is also making its accessibility tools work more like a spellchecker, introducing a new type to flag that will call attention to accessibility issues while users write. Microsoft says this is designed to help creators avoid getting to the end of a project and having to fix multiple issues.
Microsoft says the tool will flag low contrast between text and background, which is the most frequently seen accessibility issue in Word documents. An accessibility icon will appear when there is an issue, similar to the marks under spelling and grammar issues in Word. Clicking the icon will bring up a contextual card to help users make corrections.
With a nearly even split of workers who prefer to check spelling and grammar while they work versus at the end and both throughout, Microsoft is rolling out an Accessibility Assistant pane similar to Microsoft Editor that offers plain-language explanations to help users address entire categories of accessibility issues more easily.
The company will be rolling out Accessibility Assistant in the coming weeks, while the Accessibility Assistant pane will be rolled out later this year.
The assistant will gradually replace Accessibility Checker across the core Microsoft 365 apps, and will extend to cover a broader range of issues and incorporate more intelligent features, Microsoft says.
Leave a Reply