Microsoft has kicked off the UN's International Day of Persons with Disabilities with a new Skype feature. Users can now enable live call captioning and subtitles on Skype calls, similar to PowerPoint.
The feature is available across Android, iPhone, iPad, Linux, Mac, Windows, and Windows 10. It works on both group calls and one-on-one, in both audio and video.
“The live captions & subtitles feature provides a more inclusive experience for everyone in the Skype community, especially for people who are deaf or hard of hearing,” said the Skype team in a blog post.
“Skype has been hard at work at making our features more inclusive, and live captions & subtitles are just one way we made Skype calls more accessible. Simple settings allow you to turn them on for a single call or keep them turned on for all your calls.”
A Dedicated Window
As well as displaying captions over a video, Microsoft has introduced a dedicated side window. Users will be able to scroll back if they didn't quite catch something. The subtitles update contextually as people speak and scroll with the conversation automatically.
For those hard of hearing, this will be a huge improvement. As with many of Microsoft's accessibility changes, though, it could help those without special requirements. In a quiet environment, for example, you could turn the volume low but still be able to follow along.
Naturally, the feature's usefulness will be limited by its accuracy. Microsoft has been working very hard on transcription capabilities, but some environments can be difficult. We won't know until it rolls out fully over the next few weeks.