Top 15 Microsoft Teams Accessibility Features

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Posted on: 10/12/2020

What normally goes amiss when talking about features and functionality are the Microsoft Teams accessibility features.

Microsoft Teams has countless features that are constantly updated. If we asked you to name them all, how many would you get? 50% 60% maybe?

In this post, we introduce 15 accessibility features that make Microsoft Teams more inclusive and accessible.

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #1: Live Captions

Live Captions present viewers with a live transcript during Microsoft Teams meetings.

As the conversation or presentation flows, subtitle-style captions are displayed in your meeting interface in real-time.

Teams Live Captions

This helps people with hearing difficulties or people in noisy environments follow what is being discussed in the meetings.

How do I turn on Live Captions in Microsoft Teams?

During your Microsoft Teams meeting, click the three dots option menu in the bar at the bottom of your screen.

Click “Turn on live captions”.

Turn on live captions

Can you record captions in Teams?

Yes. By default, live captions recording is turned off so you’ll need to change this in your settings. You’ll need to make sure your Teams or Microsoft 365 license includes access to Stream (Microsoft’s recording platform for Teams meetings).

To turn on Live Captions recording, log in to Stream and find your video.

Choose the three dots to find options for your recording. 

In the video language box, choose your language.

In the Options menu, in the right-hand side, check the box that says “Autogenerate a caption file”.

Autogenerate live captions to help with Microsoft Teams accessibility

Click Apply to save your changes.

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #2: Transcription of Recorded Meetings

Even if you don’t use Live Captions during your Teams meetings, you can still get a transcription of any meetings you record.

With transcription, you can search for specific phrases after a meeting or review the whole transcript if you misheard, couldn’t hear, or were distracted during the meeting.

You can choose to have this on for every virtual meeting or on a one-by-one basis.

To access the transcription, log in to your Stream account and find your meeting.

Navigate to Options then click Captions and click Download file.

Note: As of November 2020, transcription of meetings is only supported for the English language.

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #3: Chat Translation

In larger teams, you may be in a Teams channel with colleagues whose first language is different from yours.

When this is the case, Teams offers inline message translation so all users have a constant stream of messages and message threads in their native language.

When turned on, messages will be translated to the language indicated by each user’s language set in their own settings.

Inline message translation Microsoft Teams

Languages supported include:

  • Arabic
  • Bulgarian
  • Catalan
  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • Chinese (Traditional)
  • Croatian
  • Czech
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • English
  • Estonian
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Hungarian
  • Indonesian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Lithuanian
  • Norwegian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • Slovak
  • Slovenian
  • Spanish
  • Swedish
  • Thai
  • Turkish
  • Ukrainian
  • Vietnamese
  • Welsh

You can turn on in-line message translation in the Teams admin centre.

In the Messaging Policies section, you can create a policy and toggle Translate Message to on. 

If you wish to turn on Translate Message for existing policies, find your policy and click Edit. Here, you can toggle Translate Message to on.

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #4: Zoom

No, not that Zoom! Although you can connect Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

Within the Teams interface, you can zoom into specific elements of your channel-based messaging experience.

Zooming in

You can zoom in (and back out) by using either your keyboard or your mouse.

To zoom in with your mouse, first hold the CTRL (or Command on Mac) key then scroll in by rolling your mouse wheel.

To zoom in with your keyboard, click CTRL and = at the same time.

If using a Mac, click Command and = at the same time.

Zooming out

To zoom out, follow the same process but with CTRL and – (Command and – on a Mac).

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #5: Zoom In-Meeting

The zoom functionality extends to meetings in Microsoft Teams. 

You can use the same commands as you do in the channel and chat interface during a meeting.

Like when zooming in on the channel or chat interface, you will zoom in on the whole Teams app.

Zoom into Microsoft Teams meeting

You can zoom in (and back out) by using either your keyboard or your mouse.

To zoom in with your mouse, first hold the CTRL (or Command on Mac) key then scroll in by rolling your mouse wheel.

To zoom in with your keyboard, click CTRL and = at the same time.

If using a Mac, click Command and = at the same time.

To zoom out, follow the same process but with CTRL and – (Command and – on a Mac).

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #6: Immersive Reader

Immersive reader reduces distractions from the rest of your app by zooming in on your highlighted text.

Within immersive reader, you have options to focus on a specific line, page, or even highlight nouns and adverbs.

If your users need help with focused reading or would benefit from changing the colour and sharpness of the background, immersive reader is a great tool.

You can use immersive reader in all your Microsoft 365 apps like Word and PowerPoint.

Immersive reader

What is immersive reader in Microsoft Teams?

The most popular use in Microsoft Teams is the text-to-speech option where Teams will read aloud any highlighted text.

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #7: Dark Mode

For users who prefer, or need to use, apps with a dark mode feature, Microsoft rolled this out in 2018. 

Dark mode, in any app, enhances visual ergonomics by reducing eye strain. This means the Teams environment adjusts to lighting conditions to be at optimally-lit level so you can keep your focus.

You can enable dark mode for Teams desktop:

Microsoft Teams dark mode desktop

Dark mode on your Teams mobile app:

Microsoft Teams dark mode mobile

To change your Teams setup to dark mode, toggle Dark Mode in your Settings.

If you suffer from regular headaches or poor eyesight, you’re probably using dark mode on your mobile devices. Do the same in Teams to keep this consistent.

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #8: High Contrast Mode

For users with limited colour visibility or photosensitivity issues, Teams offers high contrast mode.

In low-light settings or when using a computer all day long for work, high contrast mode can provide an “inverted” display of Teams so lessen the burden on your eyesight.

High contrast mode Teams

High contrast mode can be turned on per user. 

To do this, click your profile image in the top-right hand corner of Teams. 

Click Settings then General.

Under the Theme section, you can enable High contrast.

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #9: Voice Messages

Like sending a voicemail without waiting for your contact to let their phone ring out, you can send voice messages between users in Microsoft Teams.

If you are without access to a keyboard and need to relay a long message, this is a great alternative.

It also proves a more accessible way for people with disabilities or joint conditions to communicate without needing to spend time typing. 

For example, there are many writers with arthritis who get relief from not having to type their asynchronous messages – on top of their daily writing tasks.

On the Teams mobile app, clicking and holding the microphone button will allow you to record a voice message.

When you’ve finished recording your message, let go of the microphone button and hit send.

Voice messages in Microsoft Teams

Your contact will receive an audio file that they can play in the Teams mobile app or in the Chat section of Teams for desktop or web.

receiving voice message in Teams

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #10: Turn on Text Telephone (TTY)

A TTY (teletypewriter) is a device that helps people who are deaf, speech-impaired, or hard-of-hearing use a phone to communicate.

Users can turn this on in Microsoft Teams in their own tenant.

Select your profile picture at the top of Teams, then Settings > Calls. 

In the Accessibility section, click Turn on TTY mode.

TTY mode Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #11: Background Blur

When your working space is also your personal space, do you feel uncomfortable sharing that with your co-workers?

You wouldn’t broadcast your bedroom to your peers or customers if you were meeting face-to-face, so why should you have to when working from home

Instead, Teams give you the option to blur your background and keep your private space private.

Microsoft Teams background blur

To enable background blur, start your Teams meeting and click the blur icon in the menu bar at the bottom of your screen before you click Join Meeting.

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #12: Virtual Backgrounds

If background blur doesn’t cut it, or doesn’t blur enough, opt for a virtual background

Instead of blurring out your own background, you can choose an image to replace your background completely.

Choose from:

Microsoft Teams virtual background

To turn on a virtual background, launch a video chat, and tap the … menu.

Click Background effects on Microsoft Teams

Click Show background effects.

This will bring up a sidebar with your options for background replacement.

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #13: Audio Suppression

If you’re joining a Teams meeting from a busy coffee shop or you have meetings at home and there’s a risk of overexcitement in the background, turn on audio suppression.

You could even be suffering from an extra-loud laptop fan. If these noises are distracting for you, you can bet the person on the other end of the call is distracted too.

With Teams AI-powered audio suppression, you can automatically remove the background noise.

No background noise = no distractions!

See it in action below.

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #14 Shortcut Keys

For users with vision or mobility issues, these keyboard shortcuts often prove more comfortable than using a mouse or touchscreen.

There are now keyboard shortcuts for almost every navigational task in Microsoft Teams.

For example, switching between your Activity, Chat, and Calendar can be achieved by pressing CTRL + 1 or CTRL + 2. These numbers correlate with their position in the left-hand side navigation panel.

Microsoft Teams keyboard shortcuts

You can see the full list of Microsoft Teams shortcut keys here.

Microsoft Teams Accessibility Feature #15: Virtual Consultations

Popular in the telemedicine industry, virtual consultations provide an alternative in-person meetings for users of Teams in industries outside of the knowledge worker setting.

While all the native Teams accessibility features aren’t supported in virtual consultations, they are purpose-built to allow you to:

  • Break down the barriers to physical consultations
  • See more patients
  • Remove “did not attends”
  • Ensure patient and doctor security
  • Stay compliant with GDPR
  • Install medical technology without the upfront costs

Watch how Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust uses OneConsultation by Modality to deliver its virtual consultation services.

We’ve also seen a considerable uptake in police forces

Here, virtual consultations are in use for:

  • Taking video statements without unnecessary travel
  • Follow up video calls for missing person cases
  • Routine high volume, low-risk follow-up video calls
  • Speeding up digital policing strategy
  • Group consultation rooms to host virtual town halls

Humberside Police is one example. Chris Rowley, Deputy Chief of Police, commented on the accessibility improvements virtual consultations bought to its victims and witnesses:

“Those who have been a victim or witness to crime, in many cases, have already been through a tremendous ordeal and understandably given the current pandemic situation, will be anxious and concerned.The video system will hopefully ease any worries around giving statements by being able to provide them in a safe, virtual environment.”

Conclusion

Microsoft Teams is one of – if not – the most accessible team collaboration tools available.

Catering for users with visual, hearing, and mobility issues, you can use Teams for a whole lot more than meetings at your desk.

To learn more about Microsoft Teams accessibility options, contact the Modality team here.

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