Microsoft has begun to make its advertising products more accessible to those with physical and emotional impairments, either temporary or permanent. It’s also reaching out to marketers and agency reps, teaching them how to do the same.
The Bing Ads user interface is going through a “massive” upgrade to support accessibility, said MJ DePalma, senior global multicultural and inclusive marketing lead at Microsoft. The company is putting together a focus group to help achieve its goal.
Everything from the Bing ads user interface to marketing material needs to become accessible to all. “Say you’re clicking through to a landing page, everything on the page should be accessible,” DePalma said.
Microsoft advertising began thinking accessibility two years ago, but in the past six months the group has begun to educate its engineers on how to build features into its platforms. The company formed an accessibility team and set out to educate brands and agencies on how to bring accessibility into their own businesses.
Voice assistants count, but not the type that marketers have been familiar with. Engineers at Microsoft, for example, began improving on the original version of Narrator, a screen reader intended for those who cannot see.
Narrator has been around since 2000 and is included in every version of Windows, but just recently the company has been improving its functions and educating people on how to use it. Soon the tool found other uses, such as lawyers who began using it when they didn’t want to read manuscripts. They wanted something to read the text to them.
"We need to get away from using 'click here' on a web page," DePalma said, because those words have no meaning to those using a screen reader.
DePalma said that for search, just consider an auditory cue whenever marketers use text. "Hold yourself accountable" for descriptions and patterns in Shopping Campaigns, she said.
The accessibility team also put together an ebook, consulting with other teams to create a culture across the industry by curating content and putting that content together to build best practices.
It has been five years since the marketing group began to focus on accessibility. Microsoft’s hackathon became the spark for many of these ideas as more people began to participate.