Accessibility in Microsoft Office 2013

Microsoft Office 2013 programs have many helpful accessibility features that both make it easier for people with disabilities to use these products, and for all content creators to make documents, presentations, and other materials more accessible. Here are some of the highlights:

Make Microsoft Office easier to see, hear, and use

Use the keyboard to move around the ribbon

You can use a keyboard shortcut to access every command in a program that uses an Office ribbon. The menus and toolbars in all Office 2013 programs use the ribbon, just as in Office 2010. The ribbon contains all commands used in the program. To move to the ribbon tab that you want by using a keyboard instead of a mouse, press F10 and then press Ctrl+Right Arrow or Ctrl+Left Arrow. You can also access any command in a few keystrokes by using keyboard shortcuts.

screen shot of Office 2013 ribbon with access key numbers and letters displayed
Office 2013 ribbon with access key numbers and letters displayed

Keyboard shortcuts let you quickly use a command by pressing a few keys, regardless of where you are in the program. Most commands require two to five keystrokes. Press the letter shown in the KeyTip over the feature that you want to use.

Tip: A great way to help reduce the complexity of the ribbon so you can more fully concentrate on your work is to customize it. You can customize the ribbon by clicking File > Options > Customize Ribbon.

Zoom in or out of a document, presentation, or worksheet for better visibility on screen

You can zoom in to get a close-up view of your file or zoom out to see more of the page at a reduced size. You can zoom either by selecting the slider bar in the zoom area of the status bar at the bottom of your document; or, on the View tab, in the Zoom group, click Zoom, and then enter a percentage.

Zoom slider bar in the status area of the scree
Zoom slider bar in the status area of the screen

Zoom group on the View tab in Microsoft Word 2013
Zoom group on the View tab in Microsoft Word 2013

Get quick access to frequently used commands

When you want to do things to a whole file like print, save, or open a different file, click the File tab (Alt+F) to go to the Microsoft Office Backstage view.

Office 2013 Backstage view
Office 2013 Backstage view

Use Read Mode for a clearer view

Use the new Read Mode in Word 2013 for a beautiful, distraction-free reading experience. Read Mode hides most of the buttons and tools so you can get absorbed in your reading without distractions. Press ALT+W, and then press F to open Read Mode.

Also while in Read Mode you can double-click a picture to get an enlarged view. Click outside the image to return to reading.

Document in Read Mode of Word 2013
Document in Read Mode of Word 2013

Use spelling and grammar checker to verify your work

All Microsoft Office programs can check the spelling and grammar of your files. In Microsoft Word 2013, start the Spelling and Grammar checker by clicking Review > Spelling and Grammar.

The Word ribbon with the Spelling and Grammar command highlighted
The Word ribbon with the Spelling and Grammar command highlighted

Automatically correct spelling errors

Correct typos and misspelled words as you compose by using the AutoCorrect feature in Office 2013. You can insert symbols and other pieces of text automatically as well. AutoCorrect automatically includes a list of typical misspellings and symbols, but you can modify the list to suit your needs.

AutoCorrect dialog box "Replace text as you type" area
AutoCorrect dialog box "Replace text as you type" area

Command your computer by voice

Speech recognition, which comes with Windows 8, enables you to move around your computer screen by using voice commands instead of the keyboard and mouse. To use Windows to dictate text and to control your computer by just saying what you see, click Control Panel, and type speech in the search box. Then click Windows Speech Recognition. As soon as Speech Recognition is set up you can start it by saying Start listening.

Speech Recognition control
Speech Recognition control

Hear written text read aloud

The ability of your computer to play back written text as spoken word is a text-to-speech or TTS function. Depending upon your configuration and installed TTS engines, you can hear most text that appears on your screen in Word 2013, Outlook 2013, PowerPoint 2013 and OneNote 2013. Just highlight the text you want to hear and then click the Speak selected text icon (or, press Alt+the access key number).

Office 2013 ribbon Quick Access toolbar with the "Speak selected text" icon highlighted
Office 2013 ribbon Quick Access toolbar with the "Speak selected text" icon highlighted

Hear foreign text read aloud with Mini Translator

For those who receive email messages or documents that contain words in different languages, Microsoft Office 2013 features a Mini Translator that lets you point to a word or selected phrase with your mouse to display a translation in a small window. The Mini Translator also includes a Play button so you can hear an audio pronunciation of the word or phrase, and a Copy button so you can paste the translation into another document.

Office 2013 ribbon with Review tab open and Mini Translator button highlighted
Office 2013 ribbon with Review tab open and Mini Translator button highlighted

Use the keyboard to work with SmartArt graphics

A SmartArt graphic is a visual representation of information—like a diagram—that you can use to enhance your documents and presentation. You can create SmartArt graphics in Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word, and you can copy and paste SmartArt graphics as images into other Office programs.

You can create a SmartArt graphic using the keyboard rather than the mouse. And, you can insert a SmartArt graphic into an Office document.

SmartArt graphic
SmartArt graphic

Learn more about working with SmartArt graphics:

Create accessible documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with Microsoft Office 2013

Create accessible Office files

You can make Word documents more accessible by adding alternative text to images and objects and organizing content so that it’s easy for screen readers to follow. Also, learn how to create accessible Excel files by including alternative text for images and objects and specifying table headers. In PowerPoint, you can even add closed captions for audio or video.

Check documents for accessibility

With the click of a button in Word 2013, Excel 2013, and PowerPoint 2013 you can scan a document, spreadsheet, or presentation to identify areas that may be problematic for users with disabilities. The feature, called "Accessibility Checker," helps you create more accessible content. It highlights and explains accessibility issues, so you can fix them before the content is final.

Check Accessibility option in the Info area of the Office 2013 Backstage view
Check Accessibility option in the Info area of the Office 2013 Backstage view

Use Alt Text to describe shapes, pictures, tables, and graphics for people who cannot see them

For people who cannot see shapes, pictures, tables and other objects in your documents, you can add a description to each using alternative, or Alt text. People who use screen readers will then hear this description of the pictures or object as they scan your document. By using Alt text in your documents, you can help reveal even complex content to people who cannot see the screen. The location to add Alt text has changed slightly in Office 2013. It used to be in the Format Object dialog box in Office 2010, but in Office 2013 it is now in the Format Object task pane. After inserting a photo, for example, the Format Picture Tools menu opens. On the right side under Format Picture, select the Layout and Properties icon and click ALT TEXT to display the text boxes used to describe the picture.

Format Picture task pane open to Format Picture Tools tab with the Layout and Properties icon highlighted and the ALT text boxes displayed
Format Picture task pane open to Format Picture Tools tab with the Layout and Properties icon highlighted and the ALT text boxes displayed

Accessibility in SharePoint Services

Using SharePoint 2013, your team can set up websites to share information with others, manage documents from start to finish, and publish reports to help everyone make better decisions. SharePoint products include features that make the software easier for more people to use, including people who have low vision, limited dexterity, or other disabilities. For example, SharePoint has keyboard shortcuts and access keys that let you do many things without a mouse. And, for people who use assistive technologies such as screen readers, SharePoint offers More Accessible Mode, a special feature that can create a different version of software elements, such as customized forms, if a screen reader can’t handle the original element.

Create accessible PDF files

Learn how to tag PDF files so that screen readers and other assistive technologies can determine a logical reading order and navigation for the file. This also enables easier content reflow for large type displays, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and mobile phones. Microsoft Office 2013 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Visio all enable you to tag PDF files automatically when you save a file in PDF format.

Tagging adds a layer of information called “semantics” to a PDF document, which indicates what types of objects are included in a file, for example: headings, paragraphs, images and tables. Screen readers and other assistive technologies use these semantics to present the information. When you save your file as PDF, Office applications add these semantics to the file. Find out more.

Get the most out of your Office computing experience

To get the most out of Office 2013 on a computer running Windows 8, explore more Windows accessibility features.

Use Windows 8 Narrator with Office 2013

Windows 8 includes improved, built-in assistive technology. When using Office 2013 with Windows 8, you can use the built-in screen reader, Narrator, to read and create Word documents, PowerPoint slides, Excel spreadsheets, OneNote notebooks, and Outlook email. Get tips and tricks on how to use Windows 8 Narrator with Office 2013.

Microsoft Lync

Microsoft Lync is an enterprise-ready unified communications platform. Lync connects people everywhere, on Windows 8 and other devices, as part of their everyday productivity experience. Lync provides a consistent, single client experience for presence, instant messaging, voice, video and a great meeting experience. Lync 2013 users can connect to anyone on Skype, enabling rich communication with hundreds of millions of people around the world. Find out more about Lync accessibility for people with disabilities.

Microsoft Exchange

Microsoft Exchange includes features, products, and services that make it more accessible for people with disabilities.