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In our increasingly remote work environment, communication and collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams (Teams) and Slack have become essential everyday tools to stay connected with our teams.  Platforms like Teams (bundled with Office 365) iterate on existing platforms like Skype for Business, combining work chat with video meetings and other collaboration mechanisms, including integration with applications like OneNote.

It is important to understand the level of accessibility of workplace tools to ensure they are usable by all employees. People with disabilities use various techniques, including:

  • platform-level accessibility features like large text, increased contrast, etc.;
  • assistive technology such as screen readers, voice recognition, screen enlargement, switch control, etc.; and
  • other familiar technology such as the keyboard to navigate and collaborate in work.

Teams can be viewed in the browser or as an Electron app.  Electron apps are desktop applications that wrap HTML content into an installed package on the PC. Electron is a cross platform framework for development that contains the Chromium engine used in Google Chrome. One of our team members, Doug Lee, has created a set of JAWS scripts for Microsoft Teams. These scripts supplement the accessibility of Teams by making it more efficient for users of the JAWS for Windows screen reader to utilize.

Assistive Technology Scripting

Assistive Technology (AT) scripting is the process of making assistive technologies work properly with programs that would not interact properly or as efficiently with the assistive technology out of the box. Scripting creates a set of AT-specific programs that customize the behavior of assistive technology for specific applications. These programs allow Level Access to access and expose information that is often not on the screen and allows us to make a program more accessible through the keyboard. For example, as new messages come into a chat, assistive technologies such as screen readers may not speak the new messages and may not allow users to navigate with the keyboard through chat without moving the keyboard focus. Level Access can program the assistive technology in question to allow for users to review the messages quickly without losing their place in the user interface.

The JAWS Scripts for Teams

To get the scripts, visit Doug Lee’s site for the JAWS Team Scripts.  The scripts for JAWS will need to be downloaded and installed to work.  They can be used with multiple versions of JAWS and support access in both the web and desktop versions of Teams.

The following list covers some of the key features, including a message reading system to facilitate effective reading of chat messages:

  • A system for improving the reading of messages
  • Keystrokes to move focus to the next and prior areas of the screen, respectively
  • A keystroke capable of reaching some controls that Tab may skip, such as links inside a message
  • A feature to bring up a list of buttons for selection, which can be especially useful for finding “Hang up” and other call management buttons quickly
  • A command to move focus to the first tab control on the screen, or the next one, if more than one are available and one already has focus
  • Additional information is added to the Say Window Title command, announcing:
    • the name of the displayed program area (Activity, Chats, Teams, Files, etc.)
    • the sender’s online status when a one-on-one chat is on screen
    • any indicators (“badges”) for missed events, such as chats or team messages
    • any notification banner text on screen, such as when an automatic sign-in failed and the user must sign in manually
  • Additional features include, but are not limited to, focusing popups and turning off the virtual cursor to aid with navigation

For additional guidance, Doug Lee has also provided instructions on how to use Microsoft Teams with a screen reader, and Microsoft also provides information on using Teams with a screen reader.

About Level Access’s Assistive Technology Experience

Level Access has deep knowledge of Assistive Technology and understands how to write and customize scripts that give people with disabilities access to applications that were previously difficult to use or inaccessible to them. With Level Access’s assistance, you can help meet your legal obligations to provide an accessible work environment under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We have written scripts for Assistive Technologies such as JAWS, NVDA, and Dragon NaturallySpeaking for leading-edge organizations around the globe.