Support for Accessibility

The topic of accessibility has come up in discussion with a number of Live@edu customers in the US recently, who want to understand support for it in Microsoft software.

At Microsoft we’re committed to accessibility and have been investing for more than 20 years, making a tremendous impact on the lives of people with a wide array of difficulties and impairments.   We believe that all students – regardless of physical ability – deserve access to technology that enables them to realize their potential.

Back in October 2009 we posted about accessibility support in the Live@edu service.   Since then, we’ve made significant further accessibility investments in our software, whether cloud service-based like Live@edu, or on-premise software like Office 2010 or Windows 7.

Live@edu users may be interested to read more about accessibility support in the Live@edu service:

  • With Outlook Web App, users with visual impairment can turn on the blind and low vision setting to access e-mail, calendar and contacts.  Alternatively, use the accessibility features in popular rich client programs like Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2011 for Mac.
  • Office Web Apps provide WAI-ARIA support for assistive technologies, such as a screen reader or speech recognition software.
  • Many users of Live@edu take advantage of the integration of SkyDrive with Office 2010.  The Accessibility Checker allows anyone creating content in the Office 2010 applications Word, Excel or PowerPoint to fix potential problems that might keep someone with a disability from accessing the content.  It works in a similar way to a spell checker.

Last week we announced two new accessibility add-ins for Office 2010. The new PowerPoint add-in makes it easy to add captions to video and audio files in presentations.  And, you can use the Save as DAISY add-in for Word to convert files to an accessible format.

We actively communicate about the accessibility of our products. The following resources may be helpful:



Live@edu and Accessibility

Several Live@edu customers I have in the US have asked recently about how our program can help them conform with Section 508; part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  We have some great resources that customers can reference on this front.

First of all, we have a section on our website dedicated to the many aspects of accessible computing:  This site provides an excellent insight into the investments we are making at a high level.

Secondly we proactively publish documents called VPATs (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template).  These documents describe how the accessibility features of Microsoft products help federal agencies address the requirements of Section 508 Standards.  VPATs of interest are:

    … quite a list!

    … and finally, if you want a bit of an insight into the work we did on the OWA Light experience, you can watch a super video a couple of our employees recorded a while back.