Office-type applications

Archived Webinar: Overview of the Accessibility Features of Office 2013

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
11 AM Pacific, 2 PM Eastern

EASI hosts Karen McCall who will talk about changes and accessiblity in the new version of MS Office, 

Karen McCall, M.Ed., and Microsoft MVP 2010 for Word is the presenter. Karen is the Canadian delegate to the ISO/TC 171 committee, and a member of PDF/UA Universal Access working group. Microsoft Office 2013 has just been released and Karen already has a book going into detail on all of its programs and features.

Login or sign up for a free membership to register for this training.

Making Documents Accessible

Much information is available about website accessibility. However, documents in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF can also be inaccessible to blind users, as well as some users with cognitive and physical disabilities. This article summarizes the accessibility process for several versions of the Microsoft products, and discusses multiple ways to address PDF accessibility.


What is Document Accessibility?

A document is accessible if users with disabilities can read and understand all essential information that it contains, whether or not they use assistive technology. In particular:

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Using Pictures in Mainstream Communication Programs

Adding pictures to standard communication tools such as address books may provide important visual cues for people with learning or other cognitive disabilities -- users can contact people without knowing how to read or write their names. This article contains information on ways that Macintosh and Windows computers and mobile devices support this feature.

Adding Pictures to Email Address Books


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Reading Tools for People with Learning Disabilities

Some people with learning disabilities experience problems with reading, for a variety of reasons. Solutions may involve modifying the font size, typeface, or color contrast, multimodal presentation of text, availability of easy-to-use dictionaries, and masking text that isn't being read.

This article covers some of the mainstream and AT solutions to these writing problems.

Mainstream Options

Office-type programs have options for making the text larger and therefore more legible to some people with learning disabilities. They also have options for changing typeface, type color, and background color, any or all of which may be useful.

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Accessibility Considerations for Library Software

What Are the Problems?

Using a library now means using software: online resources, Internet workstations, and the library's own website and catalogue create a software-based experience for patrons and staff. Users may have trouble:

  • Seeing content on the monitor
  • Using the keyboard or mouse
  • Understanding complicated directions
  • Any of the other typical computer software barriers

These barriers may appear anywhere in your software environment:

  • Information resources, which provide information or point to information--e.g., journal articles or bibliographic databases.
  • Administrative software, which provides an interface between users and applications, and control computer usage from signin through providing alerts when a user's time is up.
  • Security systems, which are intended to prevent malicious use of software and reset the system and programs to their defaults between users. These may also be used by other types of public computer labs.

There are easy, inexpensive solutions for almost all of these problems.

Legal Obligations

The Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers public and private libraries and many other institutions, states that “No individual shall be discriminated against…in the full and equal enjoyment of …services…." Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which covers some libraries, also requires accessible information technology.

Getting Started

The software used in your library should be as accessible as possible, and you can help move it in that direction without becoming an accessibility guru.  This article will go over some steps you can take:

  • Getting Close to Your Users
  • Your IT Staff
  • When You're in the Market
  • If You've Got Technical Resources

Getting Close to Your Users

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Writing Tools for People with Learning Disabilities

Some people with learning disabilities experience problems with writing (dysgraphia); this may include problems with specific words (e.g., spelling) or with generating ideas. Some writing tools are specifically designed for people with learning disabilities; others are built into mainstream products. They provide assistance with a wide range of needs, including optimizing on-screen and print formats, idea generation and organization, choosing the right word, and spelling, homophone, and grammar checking.

This article covers some of the mainstream and AT solutions to these writing problems.

Try It Yourself

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Simple Language Makes Reading Easier

Clearly written information benefits any website visitor. However, it is particularly important to the many people who generally have trouble understanding written text. This includes:

•    people with cognitive disabilities
•    new readers (children and adults)
•    beginning English students

This article discusses a common method of measuring website readability, via several free tools. It also provides suggestions for improving your site's score.

Flesch Reading Ease

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Accessibility Features in Computer Programs

Most word processors, spreadsheets, and other popular programs include features that are useful to people with disabilities. These are often documented in the application’s Help function under “Accessibility.”


Zoom magnifies the size of the document text on the screen, so that it can be viewed at one size and printed out at another without needing to reformat. This does not affect the text size of other parts of the application, such as the menu bar or dialogue boxes; to change these, see “Accessibility Features in Operating Systems.”

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Speech Recognition Software

Speech recognition software converts what you say into text or mouse commands. It benefits people who have physical or cognitive difficulty using a keyboard to create text.

This article explains how speech recognition works and will help you get started.

Basic speech recognition is built into Windows and Macintosh operating systems. 

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Windows 8 Access Features

Access improvements to Windows 8 include:

  • Redesigned Narrator to improve its performance so that it quickly reads out what you have selected.

  • Added more languages and voices to Narrator to support additional countries and preferences.

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