Microsoft (MSFT) on Monday announced that it’s bringing live captioning and subtitles to two of its biggest products, PowerPoint and Skype. Set to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the move will facilitate communications between users with hearing difficulties or who speak different languages.
I was able to experience the new communication features during a recent visit to Microsoft’s massive Redmond, Washington, campus. It worked incredibly well, offering seamless, real-time captioning that kept up with every word spoken in the room. That became a problem when it was translating Spanish to English and I began speaking in English, but that’s to be expected.
Of course, Microsoft isn’t the only company working on or offering accessibility features for its consumers. Apple’s (AAPL) iOS lets individual users configure playback and captioning, and can read content out loud for those who have vision issues. There’s also a guided control feature that lets parents or caregivers ensure individuals with autism or attention and sensory issues stay on task by disabling the Home button, as well as portions of the display to limit accidental inputs.
Building for accessibility Microsoft’s accessibility team is run by Jenny Lay-Flurrie, the company’s chief accessibility officer and someone who understands how important such features are for users. As someone who’s been nearly deaf her whole life, Lay-Flurrie also stands to benefit from the captioning features coming to PowerPoint and Skype.