This week, I have had the privilege to speak to well over a hundred people about the accessibility features that are available in Microsoft products. The sessions that I have run were varied based on audience and event but the consistent feedback that I have received has been overwhelmingly positive towards the efforts that Microsoft have put into the features, and surprise that there are so many of them available.
With platforms such as Future Decoded being used to promote these features, and recent changes in legislation enforcing increased public sector compliance to accessibility, there is a tangible buzz around theses features.
To support these sessions, I wanted to draw attention to some invaluable resources that help everyone understand what is available and, importantly, support the essential activity of building awareness of the tools and the need.
Microsoft have a great set of resources that provide details of the tools and technologies that they provide. The best starting point is the accessibility section of their site:
This site is rich in content with articles about the specific tools, resources and importantly, links to get support in using the tools.
Recent updates and Comprehensive List
Microsoft have a “Sway” that is updated quarterly with new releases, but which also has a comprehensive list of features with links.
Microsoft have a whole site dedicated to Inclusive Design. The site has a wide range of resources to support the design process, from the capturing of requirements through inclusive personas through to case studies and examples.
Details of the new regulations that have been introduced for the Public Sector can be found at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/952/made
More useful in most cases will be the guidance that has been issued by the Government Digital Service: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/accessibility-requirements-for-public-sector-websites-and-apps
These are now in place and they will affect the procurement and delivery of all digital services to the public sector.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines have been the driving force behind accessibility for web-based content for 20 years and continue in that role with WCAG2.0 being adopted as and ISO Standard in 2012 and WCAG2.1 becoming an official recommendation in 2018.
I would strongly recommend reading the guidelines as they provide a good insight into the expectations of accessibility, and all of the tools and checkers are testing against them.
Adoption and Awareness
I worked in a government department for a significant period of time, and I was always aware of these posters from the Home Office as they explain how to build accessible content really effectively. These posters are really effective as they are not technology or content specific.
I have written several articles on the subject of mental health and how the tools can support certain types of mental health in the work place, and also the general productivity of people: