Top accessibility and Inclusivity tools for every user
Microsoft has a mission to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. This commitment to accessibility and inclusion is crucial to enabling all people to be at their best, and the tools extend to improving the experience for all users. The pandemic has shown that not everyone has a home life that is suitable for remote working. From childcare and house-sharing to lack of space, noise and poor equipment, there can be a lot of limitations and distractions. Teams can help.
As an avid Teams user, Paul Hunt, Trustmarque’s Principal Consultant for Microsoft 365, says there are a number of relevant accessibility tools in Teams. A few of his favourites include:
Live captions in meetings – never miss a word spoken with automatic captions. Ideal for a noisy environment and not just for those with hearing difficulties
Speaker attributions – be clear who is speaking at all times. A great way to make sure you can follow-up with questions to the right speaker
Live transcriptions – functionality for full meeting transcripts is coming soon. Transcripts will be emailed to the meeting organiser who can share with attendees.
Meetings record – as well as allowing you to share with colleagues after the meeting, you can also watch back, zoom up or slow down the pace if you need time to digest the content
Focus and zoom – zoom into shared content (for example a PPT), independent of everyone else in the meeting. You can hide the cameras of other participants to give yourself more screen space and focus on the content
Immersive reader and translation – immersive reader assists people with comprehension difficulties. It can highlight nouns, verbs, adjectives or focus on particular lines. You can translate the document, detecting up to 70 different languages using Azure Cognitive Services.
Features to support employee productivity and wellbeing
“How can we be productive when the new normal isn’t normal?” asks James Brennan, Trustmarque Customer Success Manager. The ongoing work from home culture, lockdowns and lack of human interaction is causing a strain. However, James reveals a few tools in Teams that can help to improve wellbeing and productivity, including:
MyAnalytics – offers great insights into how you are spending your working time, highlighting problem areas like distractors. The Focus planning tool in MyAnalytics allows you to block time and puts you in do not disturb mode in Teams, preventing incoming chat and calls.
Status messages – allow you to say when you are available and how and when colleagues can reach you. Use the @functionality to dominate a colleague to redirect a query to and keep yourself free. Status Message can also be time specific.
Chat – create group or individual chats and pin frequent or close contacts to quickly access. Chats can now open in a pop-out window so you can seamlessly jump between windows. It’s easy to mute chats or leave them entirely.
Raise your hand – great way to let people know you want to contribute without causing disruption to a meeting and ensuring everyone can have a say
Whiteboarding – great for brainstorming. Colleagues can contribute at the same time and can use comment boxes and sticky notes to add additional info.
Notifications control – there’s a wide range of options providing granular control over how, when and why you are notified
James also revealed a few tips countering employee isolation, including making space and time to bring people together regularly and having informal communication with peers.
Most important piece of kit to use with Teams
Teams is a powerful application that has the capability to work well on most smart devices. However, in terms of equipment there is one thing worth investing in advises James. A headset.
A headset can be a useful too both for listening into a meeting but also to improve the audio quality of your voice for those listening to you. A headset can help to make the audio vastly clearer which is particularly useful for those who are hearing impaired.
“Poor audio effects everyone and not just you,” warns James.
Best new feature (hint: all together now)
As a regular presenter at Microsoft events including an avid member of the SharePoint community, and having presented from London to Las Vegas, Paul Hunt is used to presenting in varying conditions. However, he was still skeptical of Together Mode, which aims to mimic the real world experience by using AI to place participants into a virtual auditorium
“I initially thought it was a gimmick, but I spend a lot of time in big meetings and as a presenter, it works well,” confirms Paul. “You get one consistent background rather than having to adjust to the different user backgrounds each time someone speaks, which can be quite tiring as a presenter.”
Microsoft has expanded Together Mode recently to include social settings like a coffee shop.
Managing change in Microsoft 365
Whether you call them Teams wizards, ninjas or masters, we’d recommend nominating some change champions for your Microsoft 365 account. Paul said the key to success is buy-in, communication and empowerment.
“They need to be empowered and engaged and understand what the benefit is for them, but they also need to be properly supported.”
One of the ways Trustmarque is currently supporting and enabling change champions with a currently client is by utilising the message centre and Power Automate sync to push tasks and messages into a Teas-based planner for the champions to pick up.
Remember to back-up your data
If you are using Microsoft Teams and the wider Microsoft 365 suite, don’t forget to back-up your data with a third-party solution. While Microsoft 365 does offer some protection, relying solely on the native solution can leave a gap in your data management and data protection strategy.
Dan Beck, Data Protection Specialist at Trustmarque, comments: “Microsoft 365 is not a back-up and recovery tool. Microsoft is quite clear where their responsibilities lie and that is mainly around hardware and software failure in their infrastructure.”
In his presentation at ConnectIT, Dan expanded with some key misconceptions about native back-up, revealing the five areas organisations are often surprise to learn they are wholly responsible for:
- Human error
- Programme errors
- Malicious insiders
- External hackers
- Viruses and malware
As part of a robust protection strategy, Dan recommends a solution like SafeGUARD. Developed in partnership with data specialist Redstor, SafeGUARD is a bespoke next-gen data management solution, offering automated cloud backup, archiving and DR across your Microsoft accounts.