Microsoft has announced the integration of Immersive Reader into Excel Web/Excel Online, expanding the accessibility features of its popular spreadsheet software. The Immersive Reader tool, previously available in other Microsoft Office applications, aims to assist users with reading difficulties, including those affected by dyslexia. According to Microsoft, Immersive Reader for Excel Web offers increased reading speed and reduced errors.
Key Features of Immersive Reader for Excel Users
The Immersive Reader feature for Excel Web offers a range of customizable options to enhance the reading experience. Among the notable features are increased character spacing and line spacing, word syllabication, focus on specific lines, background color customization, highlighting parts of speech, an association of pictures with words through the Picture Dictionary, content reading aloud, and on-the-fly translation. Microsoft writes that “people with dyslexia read 10% faster and had 50% fewer reading errors when reading text with optimized layout, an option in Immersive Reader”. Here are the main features of Immersive Reader for Excel Web:
- “Increasing character spacing and line spacing
- Breaking words into syllables
- Focusing on one or only a few lines at once
- Changing the background color of the view
- Highlighting certain parts of speech
- Associating a picture with a word using the Picture Dictionary
- Reading content aloud
- Translating content on-the-fly”
To utilize the newly integrated Immersive Reader feature in Excel for the web, users simply need to select a cell containing text. By clicking on the “View” tab in the top ribbon, they can access the Immersive Reader option. This action transforms the Excel document into a full-screen format, enabling users to benefit from the enhanced reading experience. For detailed instructions on utilizing Immersive Reader, Microsoft's online support page offers comprehensive guidance.
Customizing User Interface Automation for Excel
In addition to Immersive Reader, Microsoft is working on enhancing Excel's compatibility with assistive technologies through User Interface Automation (UIA). UIA serves as a bridge between apps like Excel and assistive technology such as screen readers or Braille devices. By leveraging UIA, Excel provides essential information to assistive technology tools, enabling users to navigate and interact more effectively. Microsoft is continually expanding the capabilities of UIA, ensuring that assistive technology can access specific features unique to Excel, such as data validation, formulas, conditional formatting, and object descriptions.
Microsoft encourages users to provide feedback and suggestions to further improve accessibility and inclusive design. For questions, suggestions, or feedback, users can reach out to the Disability Answer Desk or use the Microsoft Feedback Hub.
As Microsoft continues its accessibility journey, the integration of Immersive Reader into Excel for the web marks another significant step toward making technology more inclusive for all users. By providing enhanced reading experiences and accommodating various accessibility needs, Microsoft strives to empower individuals to achieve their full potential in the digital realm.
Microsoft's dedication to making its products more accessible is evident in recent updates to its software and hardware offerings. The company's focus on inclusive design extends beyond Excel, as it recently introduced accessibility ribbon improvements for PowerPoint on Windows, Mac, and the web. Furthermore, Microsoft has expanded its accessibility support pages to include Xbox and PC game controllers, as well as the Xbox app on PC. By actively collaborating with partners in the development of assistive technology, Microsoft strives to create an inclusive and accessible digital ecosystem.