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Microsoft 365 will soon have an accessibility assistant

It will offer content creators suggestions on how to prevent and correct accessibility issues.


This year's Microsoft Ability Summit is underway and the company has revealed its latest advancements for accessibility and disability inclusion. First, it's bringing an accessibility assistant to Microsoft 365 (formerly Microsoft Office). The aim is to help people produce content that's more accessible.

The assistant will offer suggestions on how to prevent and correct accessibility issues, along with what Microsoft calls "better defaults" and "real-time remediation." The assistant follows an accessibility checker in Visual Studio. On a similar note, Microsoft has released a guidebook (PDF) to help people design products with cognitive diversity in mind.

Later this year, there will be 3D-printed attachments for the Surface Pen — they're already available for the Business Pen and Classroom Pen 2. According to Microsoft, the grips can make the pens easier to hold for those with limited mobility so they can use the peripherals on their Surface devices.

Elsewhere, Microsoft detailed more accessibility-minded updates that are built on the Azure platform. The Seeing AI app recently added a feature to help blind users and those with low vision to make their way through a building with the guidance of spatial audio cues.

Azure Cognitive Services for vision will be employed to automatically add alt-text descriptions and captioning on LinkedIn as well. Microsoft notes that more than 40 percent of LinkedIn posts have at least one image. While automatically generated descriptions won't be perfect, they're better than having no alt text at all.

On top of all that, Microsoft Translator today gained support for an additional 13 African languages, including Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo. Additionally, Microsoft says it will delve into some of the ways that Bing AI can bolster accessibility during the summit.