How Our Accessibility Bot Is Helping to Shape the Future of Diversity and Inclusion

Future Worx has designed and built a free, machine-learning-driven Accessibility Bot for Microsoft Teams that provides a single point-of-access for users to discover, explore and utilise the many accessibility features that the software offers. 

The bot helps Microsoft Teams users, who might otherwise be excluded from fully participating due to personal or environmental accessibility limitations, to fully engage in the digital arena. It recommends ways in which people can change how they engage with digital tools to meet their individual needs. Users can navigate intuitive menus or simply ask questions to find the tool or feature that supports their personal way of working.

Based on the latest research on making digital engagement easier, these features include live captions during meetings, reducing background noise, optimising text size, altering contrast, splitting words up into syllables to assist readability.

As a reviewer on the Microsoft app store commented: “[the bot is a] very helpful tool to find all my accessibility needs across the Microsoft suite”.

Microsoft’s #BuildFor2030 Campaign

We’re incredibly proud that our bot was recently selected to be featured in Microsoft’s #BuildFor2030 campaign, which showcases solutions that are contributing to a more diverse and inclusive economy.

Inspired by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the campaign highlights technologies that align with the SDGs and will help to improve the state of the world by 2030.

How the Bot is Making a Difference at Imperial College London

The bot has found particular success at Imperial College London, where 70% of the 43,000 staff and students that have access to the bot have used it. 

This case study showcases the importance of inclusion and accessibility at educational institutions, in particular, the need for which has only intensified with the restrictions created by multiple lockdowns during the pandemic. Imperial’s challenge has been to include everyone in the shift to all-digital ways of working: many need digital accessibility support, but are not aware of the support available and unsure of where to go to get it. 

After consulting with Future Worx, Imperial made the bot accessible to all their Microsoft Teams users, automatically pinning the app to the main menu for all users. With 70% uptake, the bot has helped 30,000 staff and students to participate more fully in learning and work activities during difficult lockdown conditions. The ‘Immersive Reader’, which reads posts, chats and documents aloud, was cited as the “single biggest impact tool” by Adrian Mannall, a Microsoft 365 specialist at the faculty for Information and Communication Technologies at Imperial. 

Adrian commented: “[W]e’ve made the accessibility bot available to [all our staff and students], because it’s there to help everyone. Importantly, no one has to sign up to a course to learn how to use the bot or ask for it to be installed for them, they can just start using it. That’s critical for people who may not feel comfortable asking for help with accessibility needs.”

The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion

Giving everyone what they need to fully participate in the modern digital workplace is a growing priority for companies that understand the importance of accessibility to a happy, productive workforce.

The challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic have only intensified these kinds of accessibility difficulties and will keep it high on the agenda for the foreseeable future.

“At Future Worx we know that diversity and inclusion will be central pillars of the future of work, particularly as we shift towards more hybrid and remote ways of working. Across our clients, we see that time and energy invested in D&I initiatives are rewarded with higher levels of engagement and a far greater sense of being ‘in it together’. And if your people feel genuinely supported they tend to respond in kind!”

Steve Giles, CEO, Future Worx

Future Worx continues to invest in D&I solutions as a central pillar of the future of work and as one of the core opportunities our clients now have to improve the well-being of their employees.

You can download the Accessibility Bot for free at the Microsoft app store.

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