What's New in Outlook Accessibility

We are on a journey to make Outlook Desktop more usable for assistive technology and keyboard users. We're working to make it easier and more efficient to manage your mail and calendar. It's our contribution to Microsoft’s goal:

  • People with disabilities can communicate, consume and create content on any device.

  • Everyone can easily create content that is accessible, including people with disabilities.

July 2016 Updates

Here are some highlights of the July 2016 release of Outlook Desktop in Office 365. These includes the top two requests we’ve heard from customers:

  1. Scheduling Assistant

  2. Signatures

We welcome your feedback on these issues and the rest of the product.

Use the Scheduling Assistant to schedule a meeting

You can use the Scheduling Assistant to find a time that works for everyone who attends a meeting.

  1. Start a meeting and press Ctrl-Tab to open up the Scheduling Assistant.

  2. Press the Tab key to review the attendees list, and add anyone you need.

  3. Press the Tab key several times until you hear Start time, and set the date and time fields that you want.

  4. Finally, press Tab again to go the calendar body. You'll hear people's status, such as “1 attendee busy, 1 tentative, David busy 2 - 3pm, Laura tentative 2 - 4pm.”

    If you want to quickly find the next free time, you can also tab to Options: Auto-Pick and press Enter. The Assistant will suggest a time for you.

Add a signature to your email messages

You can now add a signature to your mail.

To create a signature:

  1. Start a mail, focus in the body, press Alt-N-A-S to go to the signatures form.

  2. Then, go to the New button to add a signature and name it.

  3. Set the options about when you want to use the signature.

  4. Press the Tab key to move to the body and write the signature that you want.

One final highlight here: users can now add alt-text to images in their signatures so everyone can consume them.

Quick scan of message list

You can use Narrator to navigate the message list by item, or table cell by table cell.

You can also use Narrator table commands in the message list to pick a column such as subject and quickly move mail-by-mail hearing only the value you want, without having to listen to extraneous content.

We are working to light up this feature with third party screen readers such as JAWS and NVDA.

Scan the calendar to find a free time

We’ve polished the text that screen reader users hear when they use the calendar. People now hear the right information when they need it.

Use the Tab key to move from meeting to meeting. Use Arrow keys to move from time to time and hear when you are available.

Better keyboard experience

We’ve polished the keyboarding experience so that the keyboard follows Outlook’s user interface better.

You can think of Outlook as a set of panes, such as the Folder List, Message List, Reading Pane or the Ribbon. You can use F6 or Ctrl+Tab to move between these panes, and use the Tab key to move inside each pane. This means that the Reading Pane is more keyboard accessible than before.

This sequence helps make proficient users faster, and makes it easier for new users to become proficient.

We want to hear from you

Important: A personal message from David Gorelik, program manager for accessibility on the Outlook team.

We'll continue to make Outlook more usable for assistive technology and keyboard users. If you have additional requests for specific functionality, please suggest or vote at our Outlook User Voice forum.

If you experience any issues, please contact our Microsoft Disability Answer Desk.

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