Veronica With Four Eyes

Seven Accessibility Features You Didn’t Know Existed In Microsoft Office

As a college student who uses their computer for almost everything, I spend a lot of quality time working with Microsoft Office, especially Microsoft Office accessibility features. I love being able to customize my favorite Microsoft Office software and applications for my own personal preferences and accessibility needs, since I have a visual impairment and neurological condition that affect how I use the computer. While I use several different accessibility settings built into Windows 10, I also like to enable features within Microsoft Office applications so that I can make documents and information easier to read and edit. Here are seven accessibility features you didn’t know existed in Microsoft Office, and how they can help users with low vision.

Provide feedback with sound

I don’t always use a screen reader, but I love being able to get audio feedback to figure out if I am doing something as expected. I found that this feature was especially helpful during my summer internship when interacting with Microsoft Outlook since I wanted to make sure I opened a file correctly or that I actually clicked send on an email.

To activate Provide feedback with sound, follow these instructions:

  1. Go to the homepage of the Microsoft Office application of your choice
  2. Click on the Options text in the sidebar
  3. In the Options dialog box, go to the Ease of Access section
  4. Check the box that says “Provide feedback with sound” and choose a sound scheme if desired
  5. Click OK and close the dialog box. All installed Microsoft Office applications will now provide feedback with sound.

Related links

Change default font and text size

I always write new documents in large print so that I can see them clearly, so I decided to change the default font and text size in individual Microsoft Office applications so that I can read new documents more easily. This process varies from application to application and must be configured in each individual Microsoft Office application.

To change default font and text size in Microsoft Word, follow these instructions:

  1. Open a new document in Microsoft Word
  2. Press the Ctrl-D keyboard shortcut, or open the font options menu on the home ribbon
  3. Set the font type and text size of your choice in the drop-down menus
  4. Click “set as default” and check the box that says “All documents based on the normal template”

Related links

Enable automatic alt text

While automatic alt text isn’t perfect, adding alt text is an incredibly critical part of creating accessible documents. For people that are still learning how to write alt text or who want to have a basic description to edit later, enabling automatic alt text is a great way to ensure that all images and relevant elements of a document have descriptions that can be read by screen readers.

To activate automatic alt text, follow these instructions:

  1. Go to the homepage of the Microsoft Office application of your choice
  2. Click on the Options text in the sidebar
  3. In the Options dialog box, go to the Ease of Access section
  4. Check the box that says “Automatically generate alt text for me”
  5. Click OK and close the dialog box. Automatic alt text settings will now be turned on for all installed Microsoft Office applications, and can be edited by going to the “format image” pane within a document

Related links

Customize the ribbon

While the default Microsoft Ribbons are helpful, I prefer to organize my favorite features in different sections for easy access. Users can rename or create custom tabs, groups, tool tabs, and more within the Options menu.

To customize the ribbon, follow these instructions:

  1. Right click on the menu and select the drop-down menu option that says “customize ribbon”
  2. Alternatively, go to the homepage of the Microsoft Office application of your choice, click on the Options text in the sidebar, and in the Options dialog box, go to the Customize Ribbon section
  3. Within the Customize Ribbon menu, add/remove desired shortcuts and features, or click and drag different items in the list view
  4. Create new groups or new tabs by clicking the respective buttons and dragging features to the new sections
  5. Rename features, tabs, or sections by highlighting the item in the list on the right-hand side and clicking Rename
  6. Click OK and close the dialog box when finished

Related links

Use keyboard shortcuts

Do you want to navigate the Microsoft Office ribbon using only your keyboard? Press the F10 key on your keyboard, and letters/numbers will appear over features on the ribbon so that users can press a key to determine what they want to do. Once finished, the user can press F10 again and go back to creating their document I highly recommend memorizing these shortcuts for future reference, especially for people who have trouble using the computer mouse.

Alternatively, users can create their own custom keyboard shortcuts by following these instructions:

  1. Right click on the menu and select the drop-down menu option that says “customize ribbon”
  2. Alternatively, go to the homepage of the Microsoft Office application of your choice, click on the Options text in the sidebar, and in the Options dialog box, go to the Customize Ribbon section
  3. At the bottom of the screen, click the Customize button, next to the keyboard shortcut text
  4. Select a command from the list and click on the empty box for the keyboard shortcuts, and press a key combination of your choice
  5. Click assign, and repeat as needed, clicking OK when finished

Related links

Read information with Immersive Reader

Immersive Reader is one of my favorite Microsoft products, and I use it all the time for reading information since the high contrast settings work well for me. Immersive Reader is being added into new products often and is available in many of my favorite Microsoft Office applications as well.

To activate Immersive Reader, follow these instructions:

Microsoft Word and OneNote

  1. Click the “View” tab at the top of the screen
  2. Click the “Learning Tools” button
  3. Immersive Reader will open

Microsoft Outlook

  1. Open an email in Microsoft Outlook
  2. Click on the “…” button to display more options
  3. Click “Show Immersive Reader” on the bottom
  4. Immersive Reader will open

Related links

Send accessibility feedback directly to Microsoft

Frustrated with a certain issue in a Microsoft Office application, or super excited about a new feature? You can send anonymous feedback by clicking the file button, followed by selecting the Feedback option. From there, you can fill out the appropriate form to share your thoughts directly with members of the Microsoft team that works on the product. It may sound unbelievable, but real-life project managers, engineers, and other staff at Microsoft read all of the feedback that comes through!

Related links

Final thoughts

I’m thrilled to see that Microsoft has incorporated so many accessibility features into their products, and I hope that they will continue designing new features and products with assistive technology users and people with disabilities in mind. I hope this post is helpful for others who want to improve their experience with Microsoft Office!

Seven Accessibility Features You Didn't Know Existed In Microsoft Office. Seven not-so-secret accessibility features and shortcuts that can make your favorite Microsoft office software/apps easier to use with a disability



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