Microsoft 365 set to get an accessibility assistant

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Last year during the Ignite event, Microsoft rebranded the Office 365 app to Microsoft 365 to better position the company for the future. The rebrand was Microsoft’s way of rounding up all its services under an easier-to-understand grouping and simply identifying a single service as Microsoft 365.

To that end, Microsoft seems to be making considerable strides. Earlier today, the company introduced Accessibility Assistant. A new feature designed to help content creators make their work more accessible with less effort in Microsoft 365.

How will it work? Well, according to Microsoft the assistant will provide suggestions and recommendations that will help creators identify factors that might in turn cause accessibility issues. “Our goal is to make checking and fixing accessibility issues natural and simple, while keeping you in the flow of work,” says Microsoft.

The company has also noted that the new feature ships with three key innovations that build and expand on the existing Accessibility Checker. First up is better defaults, designed to help prevent issues before they transpire.

Next up is the real-time and in-context remediation that is in place to help creators fix issues as they occur. And finally, clear, simple guidance which will feature directly in the flow of work.

Additionally, to further promote content accessibility Microsoft is launching a new color picker in Microsoft 365 Apps. It is designed to account for both creative license and to meet the need for establishing a contrast between text and its background.

The color picker experience ships with two modes. The first mode is similar to the previous experience in multiple ways but it will now feature a tooltip that’s designed to guide users toward colors with sufficient contrast. The second mode, high-contrast on the other hand “narrows the available color options that meet contrast requirements (plus an additional row of accessible options that align with the selected theme and design).”

Two views of the Microsoft Word color picker. One shows a mouseover tooltip that provides information about the selected color and its contrast with the background. The other shows the High-contrast only toggle switched on; only the darkest colors are showing.


Another notable addition is the new Accessibility Assistant pane, which is expected to ship sometime this year. It features a “clean, efficient interface like Microsoft Editor, with plain-language explanations” which is designed to help creators address entire categories of accessibility issues easily.

Moving forward, Microsoft plans to phase out the Accessibility Checker and replace it with Accessibility Assistant across Microsoft 365 apps. The feature’s capabilities will also be expanded and even be integrated with AI. However, the feature is only shipping to Microsoft 365 Insiders.

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