Did you ever feel like you missed out on something at a virtual meeting or live event due to accessibility issues?
If so, you're not alone.
Microsoft Teams has many features that can make virtual meetings and events more inclusive and engaging for everyone. This guide will explore Microsoft Teams accessibility features and share our top tips for making this workplace communication app more usable for people with disabilities.
Microsoft’s Commitment to Accessibility
The company states on its accessibility page: “Microsoft is committed to ensuring our products and services are designed for everyone, including over one billion people with disabilities.” The statement discusses the three principles Microsoft abides by transparency, inclusivity, and accountability. “In developing our products and services, we consider leading global accessibility standards, including EN 301 549, US Section 508, and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG),” the company says.
Microsoft has provided many online resources to help users with disabilities get the most out of the platform. If you have any questions related to accessibility or you need technical assistance, you can reach out to Microsoft's Disability Answer Desk. For government, commercial, and enterprise users, Microsoft also offers an Enterprise Disability Answer Desk.
Microsoft Teams Feature Accessibility: A Closer Look
Microsoft Teams has many built-in accessibility features, which include:
High Contrast Mode: For users with low vision or color blindness, High Contrast Mode can help make text and images more visible. By enabling this feature, you can change the color scheme of your screen so text and other elements appear more distinct.
Closed Captions: Closed captions are essential for people with hearing impairments. Microsoft Teams provides real-time captioning during meetings and live events so that participants can read what is being said as it is being said.
Closed Captioning for Recordings: In addition to live closed captioning, Teams also allows adding captions to meeting recordings, making them more accessible for those who may have missed the live event.
Narrator: This screen reader reads text and describes events aloud for people with visual impairments.
Speech Recognition: This feature allows users to control their computer with their voice, making it easier for people with mobility impairments to use Microsoft Teams.
Inverted Colors: This feature can be useful for users who find it easier to read white text on a black background.
Text Size: Users can increase text size in the Microsoft Teams interface, making it easier to read.
Immersive Reader: This feature can read text aloud and includes additional settings like font spacing, syllables, and parts of speech. This is particularly helpful for those with dyslexia or other reading difficulties.
Customizable Alerts: Users can customize the visual and audio alerts they receive for notifications, making them more noticeable and accessible.
Screen Reader Support: Screen reader support is vital for users with visual impairments. Microsoft Teams supports several popular screen readers, including Windows Narrator and JAWS. This support allows visually impaired users to participate in meetings and live events more easily.
Magnifier: The platform has a built-in magnifier tool for users with trouble seeing small text or images. It allows you to zoom in on parts of the screen, making them larger and easier to see.
Keyboard Shortcuts: Keyboard shortcuts can be a lifesaver for users with mobility impairments. The app comes with various shortcuts that can help you navigate the platform quickly and easily without the need for a mouse.
How to Make Your Microsoft Teams Meetings and Live Events More Accessible
Are you a producer, presenter, or speaker hosting a conference call or webinar using Microsoft Teams? Making your content equal access to everyone can seem like a daunting task, but it’s possible. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
Tips for Producers
Use Proper Lighting: Good lighting is essential for people with visual impairments to see what's happening in the meeting. Ensure that the room is well-lit and that the presenter's face is well-lit and not obscured by shadows.
Set Up Your Microphone Properly: Ensure your mic is set up correctly so all participants can hear you clearly. Position the mic close to your mouth, and avoid touching or bumping it while speaking.
Use Closed Caption: Always use the Closed Caption feature during your meetings and events. It helps participants with hearing impairments to follow along with the conversation.
Provide a Detailed Agenda: Send an agenda beforehand so all participants can prepare and know what to expect during the meeting or event. This can be particularly helpful for users with cognitive or learning disabilities.
Use Clear and Concise Language: Use plain language and avoid using jargon or technical terms that may be difficult for some participants to understand. Speak slowly and clearly, and pause between sentences to allow participants to process the information.
Tips for Presenters
Speak Clearly and at a Moderate Pace: Speak comfortably for all participants. Avoid speaking too fast or slow, and try articulating your words clearly.
Use Descriptive Language: When presenting images, charts, or graphs, provide detailed descriptions for those who cannot see them. Use alt text or captions to describe visual elements for participants who are blind or have low vision.
Use Accessible Presentation Software: Choose presentation software like Microsoft’s PowerPoint that supports accessibility features such as closed captions, screen readers, and keyboard shortcuts.
Avoid Flashing or Distracting Content: Content that flashes or flickers rapidly can trigger seizures in people with epilepsy. Avoid using this type of content and keep the focus on your message.
Encourage Participation: Encourage all participants to ask questions or provide feedback during meetings or events. Provide alternative ways to ask questions, such as using the chat feature or emailing them in advance.
Tips for Speakers
Use a Good Microphone: A high-quality microphone will ensure your voice is clear and audible.
Position Yourself for Maximum Visibility: Stand or sit in a well-lit area so participants can see you clearly.
Use Closed Captions: Use sign language interpretation or closed captions to benefit participants with hearing impairments.
Speak at a Moderate Pace: Speak clearly and avoid speaking too quickly or too slowly. This can help people who rely on lip-reading or captioning better follow your words.
Use Visual Aids: Use visual aids such as slides and images to support your message. This can help people with hearing or cognitive impairments to better understand your content.
Provide Verbal Descriptions: If you're using visual aids, provide verbal descriptions of what's on the screen. This can help people who are blind or have low vision to understand your content better.
Avoid Using Acronyms: Avoid jargon and acronyms that may not be familiar to everyone in your audience. If you do need to use them, make sure to explain what they mean.
Allow Time for Questions: Make sure to allow time for questions and feedback from your audience. This helps ensure that everyone understands your message and has an opportunity to participate in the discussion.
Creating Inclusive Meetings and Live Events with Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams offers a range of features to ensure that everyone can participate in virtual gatherings. Using these features, people with disabilities can feel empowered to contribute to discussions and collaborations. By implementing the tips discussed in this guide, producers and presenters can make their Teams meetings more inclusive for all participants.