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GIF showing statistics around global disabilitiesWe’re going to be sharing a story every week for the 12 weeks of summer, showing you how healthcare organisations are using technology to transform patient outcomes and increase productivity. For the fifth blog in our series, Hannah Rowlands, Account Executive for Microsoft UK Healthcare and Life Sciences shares 9 ways that accessibility can be improved in healthcare organisations by leveraging digital tools.

This week, I had a revelation.

To my surprise, whilst going through the Accessibility in Action Digital Badge at Microsoft, I learnt that there are one billion people worldwide living with a disability. Over 70% of those disabilities are invisible. Even more shockingly, only one in 10 have access to assistive technology that can make them more independent and productive.

NHS Digital has just expanded its service manual to include guidance on making digital services more accessible by putting people at the heart of its designs. Accessible-by-design technologies create more inclusive and diverse workforces. Such diversity has always been integral to the NHS, and the wider healthcare industry.

Re imagining digital inclusion and accessibility in healthcare

Microsoft 365 is packed with built-in assistive technologies, so you can get started on reshaping the inclusive workplace and the way your employees work.

1. Read Aloud

Collaborating on important clinical documents can be complex. It’s a particular challenge for those with visual impairments or difficulty depicting words. The Read Aloud function does just that; allowing on-screen words to be spoken aloud for maximum engagement.

GIF showing Office 365 read aloud feature

2. Dictate

Imagine if clinicians could spend more time focused on caring for patients and less time struggling to type information from one format to another. Dictate, part of Office Intelligent Services, lets you use the power and speed of your voice. That gives you time back to focus on producing even better patient outcomes.

3. Automatic alt-text

Alt-text helps those with visual impairments ‘see’ images online. Hover a cursor over an image, and a text description explains what’s in the picture. This works online – any website worth their salt should be including alt-text – and in programs and tools. While laudable and necessary, adding alt-text to images can also be time-consuming. That’s why Microsoft Word and PowerPoint both automatically generate word descriptions for those that need it.

Screenshot showing automatic alt-text added to a PowerPoint image

4. Presentation Translator Add-in

The NHS is one of the most diverse organisations serving a hugely diverse population. This has an impact on both employee’s ability to access and collaborate inclusively in meetings, briefings, training, and MDTs.

It’s also important to consider how patients interact with content published by trusts, such as public board meetings, CEO updates, and patient advice videos.

Presentation Translator connects us. Built on Microsoft Translator APIs, and part of the Cognitive Services API collection, this tool enables businesses to add end-to-end, real-time speech translations to their applications or services. We recommend using this add-in with Microsoft Office 365 and Windows 10.

Simply put, the feature displays live subtitles over videos, with over 60 languages supported. You’ll now even be able to open up presentations to multi-lingual Q&A sessions or help hard-of-hearing audience members participate in the discussion.

5. Immersive reader

The NHS’s ‘Paperless 2020’ initiative mandates a serious shift away from paper towards system-wide digital content. The way we’re collaborating is changing, with employee and patient expectations rightfully becoming increasingly more demanding.

This is even more true for those with accessibility needs. Say someone with dyslexia joins your organisation. Those old paper forms that bombard every new starter are going to prove problematic for your latest employee. The original approach, therefore, needs adapting and updating.

The digital solution is Immersive Reader. Embedded into Teams, the tool speaks words aloud with simultaneous highlighting. This lets all users customise it to their preferred learning and focus techniques, with adjustable colours, spacing and lines.

6. Accessibility checker

Office 365’s Accessibility Checker shows the power technology can have in driving a culture based on diversity and inclusion – with people always at the centre.

It proactively scans and prompts you to make improvements, so your content is more accessible and inclusive. New features such as ‘Add Description’ and ‘Mark as Decorative’ allow simple, actionable steps with 1-click.

Imagine presenting new ground-breaking clinical research or running an induction for new junior doctors. You’ll be confident that everyone on the workforce is empowered to collaborate and participate in ways that ensure they feel included and productive.

Screenshot of Accessibility Checker to increase diversity and inclusivity of all content

Screenshot of user selecting Immersive Reader option

7. Built-in slide designs

You don’t need a design or computer science degree to construct a professional and eye-catching set of slides

These days, you can conduct a presentation on the latest industry trends, outstanding team accomplishments, or drilling down into patient care reports and engage everybody in the room or on the call. This AI-powered feature makes designing slides easy as pie. And every time you create a new slide, it automatically makes the reading order accessible for everyone.

8. Microsoft Stream

Stream, Microsoft’s Enterprise video streaming platform, generates automatic transcripts for videos using speech to text AI capabilities. This is a particularly significant feature for the NHS with challenges around recruitment and retaining talent. Tools like these are critical to encouraging a career focus, loyalty, and confidence across the workforce. No matter where they are or what they need, Stream helps all employees stay up-to-date and in the loop.

9. MailTip

Prioritising content accessibility should be second-nature – however, for some, ever-increasing demands and ever-decreasing resources can make it difficult. MailTip can jog their memory. If you indicate within the tool that you prefer accessible content, it will remind your other collaborators to check the accessibility of their content. A good prompt for those who know the importance of accessibility, but can find it a struggle.

Accessibility in healthcare shouldn’t be an afterthought. The greatest success comes from using design-thinking from the outset to inform new features and capabilities. Across all of our varied roles and careers, increased accessibility is something which benefits us all, and it’s a responsibility shared by all of us.

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About the author

Hannah Rowlands, Account Executive for Healthcare and Life Sciences, Microsoft UKHannah Rowlands is an Account Executive for Microsoft UK Healthcare and Life Sciences. She works with NHS Trusts across London and the South East, helping organisations deliver better patient care, optimise operations and empower employees. Hannah has previously worked for a large pharmaceuticals firm and in the Local and Regional Government Team in Public Sector at Microsoft. She’s passionate about Microsoft’s impact on accessibility in healthcare at a pivotal point for the NHS.

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