Microsoft has launched some new accessibility tools in its free Word Online and OneNote Online applications. These are also useful for anyone who creates web pages and wants to make them more accessible.
Called ‘Learning Tools’ the new application is aimed at both improving accessibility with visual impairment, and helping people improve their reading skills, including ‘people with dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, emerging readers’.
The new Read Aloud feature reads text aloud and you can resize the text, adjust the spacing and change the background colour of the page with one click.
The facility is on the menu bar in Word Online/OneNote Online under View/Immersive Reader. If you have a standalone version of these packages on your hard disk, it won’t be there! If you’re using Word or OneNote on a server at work, check with your IT support.
Do you produce web pages? Check their accessibility with this tool
As well as being useful for reading, this feature is particularly useful for anyone writing text for a web page — you can now easily check how a web page will sound in a screen reader without downloading any software or using some of the rather clunky screen readers that are already available.
You can also do a quick check on contrast with this tool.
There’s a lot more to web accessibility than this, but this tool is a useful addition to your toolbox.
How you can get Word Online and OneNote Online
Word Online and OneNote Online are the cut down versions of Microsoft’s main Word and OneNote software.
Whilst you have to buy Word and OneNote, the online versions are free. They come automatically if you have an Outlook.com email account (previously called Hotmail) and can also be downloaded as apps for your smartphone or tablet or used in a desktop browser.
Word is Microsoft’s well known wordprocessor, OneNote is less well known but a useful application for taking notes. It’s a bit like website format, but private to you, and doesn’t need any knowledge of creating a website — it’s much simpler to use than even Word.
More information: Free Office Online apps (external Microsoft website).
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