Many years ago, I used to find talking to any and all technical support numbers to be a frustrating experience. In many cases, the person on the other end of the line was unable to see what was on my screen, and because I have low vision, there were many times where I was also unable to see what was on my screen and couldn’t provide the information they needed. Alternatively, I would run into an accessibility issue outside of normal business hours and struggle with figuring out how to solve it on my own.
One of the things that has tremendously helped to eliminate this frustration is the fact that I can now get technical support through accessibility support phone numbers, but one of the biggest game changers has been using the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk with Be My Eyes. This has made it easier than ever for me to fix issues with my computer and other applications with the help of someone who actually understands how to use assistive technology, and who I can reach any time of day or night, free of charge. Here are my tips for using the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk with Be My Eyes, and how the service works for blind and low vision users.
What is Be My Eyes?
Be My Eyes is a free Android and iOS app that provides visual assistance services for low vision and blind users. While one of the most well-known components of the Be My Eyes app is the volunteer-based service that provides real time visual interpreters, there is also a Specialized Help section of the app that partners with companies and advocacy organizations to provide professional support for products and services free of charge using one-way video chat.
What is the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk?
The Microsoft Disability Answer Desk provides technical support for Microsoft products for customers with disabilities. Disability Answer Desk employees are trained in how to use multiple accessibility and assistive technology tools and can assist with troubleshooting issues with Microsoft products, accessibility questions, and the use of assistive technology with Microsoft products. The Disability Answer Desk supports all customers with disabilities, not just customers who have visual impairments.
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How to access the Disability Answer Desk
The Disability Answer Desk is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can be reached either through the Be My Eyes app or through other methods.
Contacting the Disability Answer Desk through Be My Eyes
- Open the Be My Eyes app on your mobile device
- Select the Specialized Help menu
- Select the Technical option from the list of organizations
- Select Microsoft
- Start the call by selecting Call Microsoft
Alternative contact methods for the Disability Answer Desk
Outside of the Be My Eyes app, users can also reach the Disability Answer Desk through the following methods:
- 24/7 online text-based chat
- By phone- see Microsoft website linked below for country-specific phone numbers
- Twitter direct message @MSFTEnable
- American Sign Language (ASL) support through videophone (note this has different hours than the other options)
- Disability Answer Desk Support | Microsoft Accessibility
- Twitter Accessibility Features For Low Vision
- Why I Use Accessibility Support Phone Numbers
What a typical call looks like
Like all other Be My Eyes calls, users can broadcast a live video feed through their device camera to the support specialist who they can talk to in real time. The call typically begins with having the user describe the problem and mentioning what assistive technology they use, such as a screen reader, screen magnification tools, or related items. The assistive technology products do not necessarily have to be Microsoft products (like Narrator or Magnifier), though they will need to be installed or otherwise connected to the Windows or Microsoft device.
One of the popular tools that Microsoft uses for troubleshooting is the built in Quick Assist feature that comes with Windows 10 and Windows 11, which allows a specialist to have temporary control over the computer so they can gather non-identifying information and execute troubleshooting steps without the user having to do everything on their own, though this may not be an option depending on what the issue is. I like using Quick Assist when possible because it means I don’t have to hold my mobile device up to the screen for the entire call, and I can monitor what the specialist is doing on the screen.
Example tasks that the Disability Answer Desk can help with
The Disability Answer Desk covers issues related to Windows, Xbox, and Microsoft Office accessibility, and troubleshooting tasks and issues related to these products for people who use assistive technology. Some examples of tasks that the Disability Answer Desk has helped me with include:
- Fixing a storage issue with my mom’s computer
- Customizing accessibility settings with Microsoft Office products- I specifically used them with Microsoft Excel
- Setting up Windows Accessibility settings on my new laptop
- Solving a problem where my second monitor wasn’t displaying properly
- Learning how to better access Microsoft Outlook with a screen magnifier and learning how to set up various features
- Getting a screen saver to stop a strobing display
- Fixing a scaling issue with Microsoft Edge
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For Windows 10
- Questions To Ask When Choosing A Laptop For College
- Windows Magnifier and Low Vision
Other tips for using the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk with Be My Eyes
- If possible, use a stand or other support to rest your mobile device on while using the Be My Eyes app- holding up a mobile device for a long time can be exhausting!
- Have the name(s) of your assistive technology/accessibility software and their version number handy- for example, I use the screen reader NVDA, version 2021.3.5
- Some calls may require additional follow-up by email with another support specialist
- If you want to send feedback to Microsoft about a specific product, Windows users can use the Windows key-F shortcut and type their feedback.