An upcoming feature for the Microsoft Office Word and PowerPoint apps will automatically suggest image and slide deck captions, called alt-text, using AI algorithms. When those files are presented to blind users, computer tools designed to translate the information onscreen into audio will have text descriptions to work with.
Microsoft is accomplishing this feat with its Computer Vision Cognitive Service, which uses neural networks trained with deep learning techniques to better understand and describe the contents of images.
The feature will be available in Office and PowerPoint for PC starting next year for Office 365 subscribers. Microsoft also says it will be releasing accessible templates that for Office apps that are “structured to ensure ease of navigation with a screen reader and keyboard and use fonts and colors that are easy to read with low vision or color blindness.” For those who choose to customize their documents or slide decks, Microsoft says it has released an accessibility checker for Office PC apps that will review the file and fix any issues that make it difficult for users with disabilities to access the information.