All posts by Esmé Read

Accessibility Features in Microsoft Teams

Table of Contents:

Visit the Microsoft website for a comprehensive list of the the accessibility features available in Teams.

Use Live Captions

Live captions make Teams meetings more inclusive for participants who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, have differing levels of language proficiency, or are in places with loud background noise by providing an additional way for them to follow along.

Turn captions on and off on a desktop or laptop device
  1. In meeting controls, click More options
  2. Click Turn on live captions or Turn off live captions accordingly

Screenshot of More options menu with Turn on live captions option from a desktop.

Note: Live captions are only available in English (US).  For best caption results, speak clearly, slowly, and directly into the microphone, and avoid having multiple people speak at the same time.

Turn captions on and off on a mobile device
  1. In meeting controls, click More options
  2. Click Turn on live captions or Turn off live captions accordingly.

Screenshot of More options menu with Turn on live captions option from a mobile device.

Note: Live captions are only available in English (US).  For best caption results, speak clearly, slowly, and directly into the microphone, and avoid having multiple people speak at the same time.

Visit the Microsoft website for more information about using live captions in Teams.

 

Reduce Background Noise

Teams offers four levels of noise suppression to limit background noise in meetings:

  • Auto (default): Teams automatically decides the best level of noise suppression
  • High: suppresses all background noise that isn’t speech
  • Low: suppresses persistent background noise, such as a fan. Use this level for playing music
  • Off: no noise suppression. Use this level for high-fidelity microphones in low noise environments.
Set the noise suppression level from the main Teams menu
  1. Click More options in the top right of the Teams window
  2. Click Settings from the menu
  3. Click Devices from the menu at the left
  4. Under Noise Suppression click the dropdown menu and click the desired noise suppression level.

Once the noise suppression level has been changed from the main Teams menu, it carries over to subsequent meetings.

Screenshot of Devices menu in Settings with Noise suppression seection highlighted.

Change the noise suppression level from the main Teams menu for Mac devices using an M1 ARM processor

Note: Mac devices using an M1 ARM processor include: Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, Mac mini, and iMac.

  1. Click Settings and more in the top right of the Teams window
  2. Click  Settings from the menu
  3. Click Devices from the menu at the left
  4. Click the toggle button next to Noise Suppression; when the dot is on the right, noise suppression is on.

Once the noise suppression level has been changed from the main Teams menu, it carries over to subsequent meetings.

Screenshot of Noise suppression section and toggle from Devices menu in Settings.

Set the noise suppression level from a meeting window
  1. Click More options in the meeting controls
  2. Click Device settings
  3. Under Noise Suppression click the dropdown menu and click the desired noise suppression level.

Screenshot of Device settings from the meeting controls menu with Noise suppression section highlighted.

Visit the Microsoft website for more information about using noise suppression in Teams.

 

Use the Immersive Reader

The Immersive Reader reads posts, chat messages, and assignments out loud.

Launch Immersive Reader

Launch Immersive Reader from a message
  1. Hover over a chat message with the cursor, or tap it on a touch screen device
  2. Click More options
  3. Click Immersive Reader, which launches Immersive Reader in full-screen view

Screenshot of More options menu for a chat message in Teams.

Launch Immersive Reader from an assignment as a student
  1. Open an assignment
  2. Click Immersive Reader, which launches Immersive Reader in full-screen view
Launch Immersive Reader from an assignment as an educator
  1. Open an assignment
  2. Click Student View
  3. Click Immersive Reader, which launches Immersive Reader in full-screen view

Use Immersive Reader

Listen to a document read aloud
  • Click Play to hear a document read aloud and see the text highlighted at the same time from the top of the page
  • Click a specific word in the document to choose where the narration begins in the document
  • Click Voice Options at the top right of the document to change the narration settings

Screenshot of Voice Options menu.

Change the appearance of a document
  • Click Text Options menu iconText options
  • Set text size, spacing, font, and theme color
  • Click Show Source Formatting to keep formatting from the original text, such as bolding or underlining

Screenshot of Text Options menu.

Change how parts of speech appear in a document
  • Click Grammar Options menu icon Grammar Options
  • Click the toggle next to the different parts of speech options to highlight and break down the document’s text. When the toggle dot is on the right, the toggle is turned on.

Screenshot of Grammar Options menu

Use the Reading Preference menu

Click Reading Preference menu icon Reading Preference to enable line focus, the picture dictionary, and translating.

Screenshot of Reading Preference menu

Visit the Microsoft website for more information about using the Immersive Reader.

Use Keyboard Shortucts

Keyboard shortcuts can be easier than using a touchscreen or mouse for users with mobility or vision issues.

Note: These shortcuts are for US keyboard layouts.

Visit the Microsoft website for a complete list of keyboard shortcuts for Mac and Windows computers, on the desktop app or the web.

Translate Messages

Translate a message on a desktop or laptop device
  1. Hover over a message with the cursor
  2. Click More options
  3. Click Translate. This will show the message in the language you’ve set in Teams

Note: Language settings can be changed in the General settings, but this will change the language settings for the entire Teams application. You can also translate messages using Teams’s Immersive Reader.

        Screenshot of More options menu on a desktop with Translate highlighted

Translate a message on a mobile device
  1. Press and hold a message
  2. Tap Translate. This will show the message in the language selected in the Translation settings
  3. To see the message in the original language, press and hold a message and tap See original (language).

Note: Change the selected translation language in the Translation settings. This will not change the language settings for the entire Teams app.

        Screenshot of message options menu on a mobile device

Visit the Microsoft page for more information about translating messages in Teams.

Use Default, Dark, and High Contrast Themes

Use Default, Dark, and High Contrast Themes on a desktop or laptop device
  1. Click Settings and more in the top right of the Teams window
  2. Click Settings
  3. Click General from the menu at the left
  4. In the Theme section choose the desired theme

Screenshot of General settings menu with Theme section on a desktop.

Use Default, Dark, and High Contrast Themes on a mobile device
  1. Tap the profile picture icon in the top left
  2. Tap Settings
  3. Tap Appearance under General
  4. Tap the desired theme

Note: Changing this setting means the app must close and restart.

    Screenshot of Settings menu on a mobile device.

Create Accessible Documents in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is a commonly used application among individuals with a variety of disabilities and is reasonably accessible. The text within Word documents can be read by assistive technologies such as screen readers and Braille devices. Below are the basic steps for implementing important accessibility features.

Table of Contents:

Use Headings

Use headings to help people with impaired vision understand how the document is structured. Screen reader and Braille users can jump between headings, which makes navigation much more efficient than if there are no headings.

Convert text into a heading on a Mac
  1. In the Format menu, click Style…
  2. Scroll through the Styles list and click one of the built-in Heading styles like “Heading 1” or “Heading 2”.

Screenshot of Style dialogue box on Mac

Organize headings to create an outline; use the “Heading 1” style for the main heading, and “Heading 2” for sub-headings. For additional headings within sections under “Heading 2” sub-headings, use “Heading 3”, “Heading 4”, etc.

Visit the Microsoft website for more information about creating Headers in Word.

Convert text into a heading on a PC
  1. In the Home tab, click Styles.
  2. Scroll through the Styles list and click one of the built-in Heading styles like “Heading 1” and “Heading 2”.

Screenshot of heading styles list on PC

Organize headings to create an outline; use the “Heading 1” style for the main heading, and “Heading 2” for sub-headings. For additional headings within sections under “Heading 2” sub-headings, use “Heading 3”, “Heading 4”, etc.

Visit the Microsoft website for more information about creating Headers in Word.

Use Lists

Create lists using Microsoft Word’s built-in tools for ordered (numbered) and unordered (bulleted) lists. Without these tools, the content is not actually a list, and screen reader users will have more difficulty understanding it.

Create a new ordered or unordered list

  • Select the content of your list or click where the list will begin.
  • In the Home tab, click the  down-pointing caret to the right of the ordered or unordered list icons.
  • Click a bullet or numbering style.

Screenshot of style options for an unordered (bulleted) list.

Use Purposeful Hyperlinks

  1. Use language in your document that provides relevant information about the destination of the link.
  2. Highlight that text, right click it, and then click Hyperlink.
  3. Add the URL in the Address field and click OK.

Screenshot of the Hyperlink dialogue box on a MacScreenshot of the Hyperlink dialogue box on a PC

 

Visit the Microsoft website for more information about creating accessible links.

Add Alternate Text for Images

Alternative text (or alt text) provides a description of an image for screen reader users. The alt text will also appear in place of an image when the image cannot be rendered properly.

Add alternate text for images on a Mac
  1. Right click an image and click Edit Alt Text…
  2. 2. Type information in the Description field

Screenshot of Alt Text menu on a Mac

Add alternate text for images on a PC
  1. Right click an image and click Format Picture.
  2. In the Format Picture menu, click Alt Text and type information in the Description field.

Identify Document Language

Define the document’s default language

  1. Click the Tools menu and then click Language.
  2. Click the language from the list and then click OK

Define a different language for part of the document

  1. Select the text in the different language.
  2. Click the Tools menu and then click Language
  3. Click the language from the list and then click OK
  4. Repeat for each different language in the document.

Screenshot of Language menu on a Mac

Note: Currently language settings only effect accessibility of the Word document itself. They do not survive when exported to PDF. If PDF is the final format in which you intend to distribute your document, you will need to define language in the PDF directly using Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Use Tables Wisely

Word has limitations when it comes to making tables accessible. Tables can be very difficult for screen reader users to understand unless they include markup that explicitly defines the relationships between all the parts (e.g., headers and data cells). Simple table with one row of column headers and no nested rows or columns, are easily accessible in Word. However, more complex tables (such as those with split or merged cells) can only be made accessible within HTML or Adobe PDF (accessible table markup can be added to the PDF using Adobe Acrobat Pro).

  • Break up complex tables in the document and make them into multiple simple tables and give each one a heading.

For simple tables, identify which row contains the column headers.

  1. Click on one of the cells in the row containing the column headers.
  2. Click the Table menu, then click Select, then click Row
  3. Right click the row that contains the column headers and click Table Properties
  4. In the Table Properties dialogue box, click the Row tab, and check the checkbox next to “Repeat as header row at the top of each page”
Define your table’s header row on a Mac
  1. Click on one of the cells in the table, making the Table Design tab appear.
  2. Click Table Design and check the box next to Header Row to define the table’s header row

Screenshot of Table Design tab with checked box next to Header Row on a Mac

Visit Microsoft website for more information about creating Accessible Tables.

Define your table’s header row on a PC
  1. Click the Design tab, which reveals the Table Styles Option group
  2. Check the box next to Header Row to define the table’s header row.

Screenshot of Table Design tab with checked box next to Header Row on a PC

Visit Microsoft website for more information about creating Accessible Tables.

Use the Accessibility Checker

Microsoft Office has a built-in accessibility checker which can help test the overall accessibility of the document. The checker provides Inspection Results, feedback about the importance of each item, and tips on how to repair issues.

  • Click the Tools menu and then click Check Accessibility

Screenshot of the Accessibility Checker dialogue box