Microsoft is preparing to roll out an update for its office software suite that resolves a small but frustrating issue.
As explained in the latest addition (opens in new tab) to the Microsoft 365 product roadmap, the Read Aloud feature for the Office app will soon allow Android users to listen to their documents while their device screen is locked.
The update is currently under development, but should take effect for all Android users by the end of April. TechRadar Pro has asked for clarification as to whether the iOS app will receive a similar fix.
Microsoft Office accessibility
The Read Aloud text-to-speech service for Microsoft Office is useful on a number of levels. Most importantly, it acts as an accessibility feature for those with sight impairments or conditions such as dyslexia. But separately, it can be used to good effect in multitasking scenarios, when someone is on the move or otherwise engaged.
The inability to utilize the Read Aloud feature when the device screen is locked is a needless source of frustration that Microsoft is looking to remedy with the upcoming update. The fix will allow users to pocket their device without having to worry about accidental interactions with the screen, and should have a positive effect on battery life too.
The text-to-speech tweak is the latest in a number of accessibility-focused updates for the Microsoft Office suite, all of which share a common goal: to level the playing field for all users.
Last week, for example, Microsoft published a separate roadmap entry detailing an update for Outlook that will allow users to ensure their email messages live up to accessibility standards.
“We are expanding the functionality [of the MailTips help service] to automatically prompt you when an accessibility violation is detected while composing an email to large audiences or external users, for example, and help you fix the issue,” the company explained.
And in January, Microsoft announced a new add-on for Word, Excel and PowerPoint that lets users notify colleagues of any additional needs they may have. The idea was to create a non-confrontational way for someone to remind co-workers for their accessibility needs that didn’t involve sending a dedicated email or instant message.
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