Office 365 access improved for blind and visually impaired

GW Micro screen reader software available as free download

Microsoft has partnered with GW Micro to improve accessibility to Office 365 for blind and partially sighted people.

The deal will enable Office 365 subscribers, as well as Office 2010 and Office 2013 license holders, to download GW Micro’s Windows Eyes screen reader for free.

Windows Eyes is a text-to-speech programme that describes what appears on the screen to blind and partially sighted users, as well as reading out text.

According to GW Micro, the software enables blind and visually impaired people to be completely independent on a PC and be more successful and productive at school and in the workplace.

Jake Zborowski, group product manager for Office 365, said in a blog post: “By partnering with GW Micro we are able to improve access to the Office suite including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. Whether people want to use Office at home, school or work, they now have more flexibility and an improved opportunity to take advantage of our latest software innovations.”

Zborowski added the partnership with GW Micro was demonstrative of the company’s dedication to improving accessibility and that it will continue to seek out new ways of doing this.

Steve Tyler, head of solutions strategy and planning at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), welcomed the news.

"The cost of screen reader software has been a barrier for many people in the past, preventing them from fully engaging in technology," said Tyler.

“Making software of this nature available on mainstream platforms at no additional charge is a game changer for those who want, and increasingly need, access to digital technologies.”

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