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Microsoft assists visually impaired Office users through GW Micro deal

Microsoft has partnered with GW Micro to help blind and partially sighted people gain access to its Office suite more easily than ever before.

Related: Amazon updates Kindle for iOS app with new VoiceOver features for visually impaired users

The tie-up allows owners of Microsoft Office 2010 or later to download GW Micro’s Windows-Eyes screen reader free of charge and the global rollout of the initiative means that it’s available in 15 different languages.

“By partnering with GW Micro in this endeavour we are demonstrating Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to provide all of our customers with the technology and tools to help each person be productive in both their work and personal lives.” said Rob Sinclair, Chief Accessibility Officer for Microsoft.

Windows-Eyes is a program that changes text-to-speech and describes what has appeared on the screen to those that are blind and partially sighted as well as reading out text.

The service uses these tools to allow those that are visually impaired to be completely independent whilst using a PC and more productive both in education and in the workplace.

“This significant change in the way we are doing business reflects the changing perception of accessibility and also technology in general. Rather than wait for the world to change, Microsoft and GW Micro are leading the way," said Dan Weirich, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for GW Micro.

A number of other companies have moved to make it easier for visually impaired people to use apps in the past couple of years. Amazon updated its Kindle for iOS app with features that assist blind and visually impaired users in navigating their Kindle library.

Related: Screenreader Georgie: Hands on with the mobile phone app for the blind

There has even been the release of smartphone apps specifically for those that are visually impaired such as Screenreader Geordie, which runs on top of Android and lets users benefit from a variety of device features and use the phone to its full potential.