BindTuning is delivering workplace accessibility for all

The firm is developing assistive technology for Microsoft SharePoint to help empower people with disabilities

Beatriz Oliveira
By Beatriz Oliveira on 23 March 2021
BindTuning is delivering workplace accessibility for all
BindTuning

The Accessibility Tool for SharePoint introduces options such as increased font size

In the beginning, I only had a few little signs that something wasn’t quite right. For instance, if I was watching a video with strong animation, a blinking GIF, or flashing lights, my eyes would start twitching, and a strong headache would follow. It wouldn’t last too long, but it would block my ability to control my mind or body, even at work. For a while, I wasn’t sure what was going on until I passed out during my first significant seizure. I was 23 when I was diagnosed with epilepsy.

I have a disability. Without medication three times a day, I can experience temporary but complete disablement during a seizure. This may come as a surprise to my business circles because my disability is invisible.

Disabilities aren’t always obvious and don’t always require the use of wheelchairs, white canes, or hearing aids. Close to one-fifth of the world’s population experiences significant disabilities, but there are millions of people worldwide with invisible disabilities – an umbrella term for a whole spectrum of challenges that are not immediately apparent. The range of invisible disabilities is so wide that you can be 100 per cent sure that many of your colleagues are experiencing them right now. Conditions such as epilepsy, colour blindness, hearing issues, light sensitivities, anxiety, PTSD and dyslexia, to name just a few.

The good news is that invisible disabilities are finally being acknowledged. Also, assistive technology is empowering more people in the workforce than ever before.

Following its corporate mission to “Empower every person…on the planet to do more”, Microsoft is a very active supporter of assistive technology solutions that make the lives of people with disabilities a bit easier.

Microsoft’s commitment to meaningful innovation is evident in the assistive technologies available out-of-the-box in Office 365, from screen readers, Tell Me and Office Lens for vision, to immersive readers, captioning and Learning Tools for hearing and neurodiversity. Keyboard shortcuts, dark themes, even subtitles in over 60 languages – all of these various features show a ‘people first’ attitude towards inclusivity and diversity.

However, there has been little from an accessibility standpoint developed specifically for SharePoint-based intranets, which counts millions of users across the globe. Accessibility is nothing new for many web platforms like WordPress, Webflow or Wix, but there has been no similar tool that is installable across SharePoint sites. Until now.

My advocacy for accessible tools within SharePoint is not just because of my own condition. When developing a SharePoint intranet design for Centro de Reabilitação Profissional de Gaia, a Portuguese rehabilitation centre for people with functional disabilities, I realised for the first time how many people with numerous disabilities engage with intranets worldwide. It also made me realise that SharePoint was a challenging solution for many users.

In 2012, we were fortunate here at BindTuning to work on a project with the Portuguese Association of People with Disabilities. BindTuning created the website for the wheelchair basketball team, which we did pro bono.

These experiences helped shape our vision and commitment to inclusivity. We knew we were uniquely positioned to fill this gap. Today, I am proud to announce that we have launched the first accessibility tool for SharePoint.

The Accessibility Tool for SharePoint adheres to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. A low-code/no-code solution, it is easily deployed to any Office 365 site in minutes via the BindTuning App by a SharePoint administrator. It will make the site, even third-party content, accessible. Once installed, the tool panel is instantly accessible with a click on the icon or a simple ‘tap’ of the keyboard. This expands intranet access to all people in the workforce.

For people with visual impairments, there are options for keyboard navigation, audio screen reader, increased cursor size, adjustments for text size or spacing, and much more. Contrast and colour desaturation features address challenges of colour blindness and eye strain while the ability to change fonts create a dyslexia-friendly reading experience. There is also the option to mute all sounds, which might be disturbing to those with hearing impairment or those with PTSD or similar issues. And for people like myself, with epilepsy or that are sensitive to light-flashing and glitching, we integrated an option to pause animations and minimise blinking on the page.

These are just a few of the features that are included in version 1.0, available right now in the BindTuning Accessibility Tool. The initial feedback that we are receiving is phenomenal – over 100 surveyed contributors are very happy that SharePoint is finally getting the accessibility tools it deserves.

Follow bindtuning.com/accessibility for more information on this exciting journey that will hopefully enable millions of SharePoint customers with visible or invisible disabilities to use and create content with ease and without roadblocks. 

Beatriz Oliviera is the CEO and founder of BindTuning

This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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