Microsoft Teams is also about inclusivity and accessibility

What is inclusiveness? Including different types of people and treating them all fair & equal. In other words: everything is accessible by everyone, no-one is left out.

I had the base of this article in my mind for some days but it was this tweet that finally hit me to write it. Especially Situational accessibility affects each of us now and then.

While it is easy to think making some accessible only applies to people with injury, disability or effects of old age ( I had to start wearing reading glasses couple of years ago, now I should wear glasses all the time) that is not the case. When I am not wearing glasses I encounter this inaccessibility everywhere daily. It is not much (reading small print in a juice bottle for example) it is still something that hits me every time. Why these things cant’ be accessible by default?

What makes Microsoft Teams great, is that is does include plenty of features that help to cope with different situations – making Teams accessible and inclusive to big number of people. Most likely I am missing a feature or two, but I want to list these just to make the point. And no, you don’t have to be old or disabled to benefit out of these. Everybody using Teams can benefit out of these.

  • My favorite new feature: Live Captions. This feature is available currently only in English (US) but it is just the preview. In case you have issues hearing you can still follow the meeting from the live caption. Or if you are in a noisy environment (bar, train, ..) , somewhere where you can’t use audio (library, open office..).. You get it. It is very beneficial. It is not perfect, but it does take you a long way. And it even understands English I speak most of the time!
  • Translation feature in chat. Yes, this is a one serious barrier breaker. There are countries majority doesn’t speak English and you may not be speaking their language either. This can help you get through that wall and start collaborating together making it possible to create teams that were not realistic before. Sure, it has hickups but when Live Captions get to this eventually (supporting multiple languages) it is a Star Trek world. Or almost, in this part. Empower every person. Yes, this does it’s part.
  • Zoom feature: you can zoom Teams UI to cope your needs. Ctrl + mouse roll or +/- keys, or using Zoom setting “behind your profile picture”.
  • Zooming presented content while a meeting. Zoom works here as well, and you can pan around the content area. Have you been in meeting where content presenter had too high resolution to your display? Yep, we all have. Zoom helps, even with standard vision.
  • Use of Dark mode or high contrast mode or the standard norm. Whichever suits best your eyes and style of working.
  • Immersive reader. You can open a Teams conversation to separate reader that reads aloud the text and zooms in the text for better reading. You can also set background color, font & size and have translation by word or whole document included. Like High-contrast this also helps people with more than minor eyesight issues. Teams can be used with at least some dedicated screen reader apps – of these I don’t have any experience.
  • Voice message on mobile device – no need to type a response. What is lacking is speech-to-text for others..
  • Shortcut keys can help when you can’t use your mouse that much. Granted – some shortcuts are even more difficult when you need to press three keys at the same time. However with auxiliary devices (programmed hotkeys) this can also be a very useful.
  • Focus time and notification settings: tune to your needs. While this is not a true accessibility feature this is also about making Teams work for your needs and adds to inclusiveness by helping to increase focus by removing distractions.
  • Voicemail: speech to text. Yes, this is in the Teams voicemail, allowing you to read your voicemail without a need to listen to them.

There are many ways Microsoft Teams helps each and everyone of us to work despite if our accessibility need is permanent, temporary or situational. Or even without – it just helps us work better. Including everyone equally does benefit teamwork, help innovations and we all can achieve more.

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