Using Natural Language Processing to make Microsoft tools more accessible and inclusive for workers everywhere
Future Worx is a digital workplace consultancy that is dedicated to transforming ways of working and empowering employees at all levels to embrace change through technology. Since 2011, it has helped enterprises around the world to completely reimagine workplace operations, rapidly adopt smarter tools and drive business outcomes.
But Future Worx isn’t purely focused on technology – it also recognises the human element of workplace transformation. That’s why it has such a focus on diversity and inclusion, both of which are vital to driving innovation and culture change.
The issue facing many organisations is that it’s not easy to meet everyone’s needs, meaning some people can get left behind. Other factors such as remote working, expansive digital toolsets and accessibility requirements add to the complexity of enabling equal workplaces – a challenge that Future Worx was keen to address.
In early 2020, we were selected by Future Worx to support the development of a digital assistant that would help people understand how Microsoft tools can be more accessible and better fit their specific needs.
This led to the creation of Future Worx’ Accessibility Bot, which helps explain how to use accessibility features in Microsoft Teams, Office 365, Edge and Windows 10. Covering hearing, mental health, mobility, neurodiversity and vision, the chatbot helps people change the look and feel of Microsoft’s tools to support their personal way of working.
People with permanent accessibility needs simply ask the bot a question to find out what features exist. There is also a menu to navigate and learn more about the range of accessibility features that could be of use for anyone who is temporarily impaired. This could include being stuck in a noisy environment and needing live captions during an online meeting, reducing background distractions while on a call by blurring the background, or using Focus Assist to support work that requires sustained concentration.
The Accessibility Bot is built and managed on the EBM platform and integrates with Microsoft LUIS as it’s Natural Language Understanding (NLU) platform. Our team worked with Future Worx to develop the content needed and build the bot infrastructure, with our comprehensive training programme empowering Future Worx to freely add and expand content when necessary.
It is available to download for free from the Microsoft Store and is accessed via Microsoft Teams – which now boasts 145 million daily active users.
Since its launch, the Future Worx Accessibility Bot has helped to increase awareness of disability in the workplace and create truly inclusive organisations. It has so far generated more than 115,000 conversations across 50,000 unique users, and was recently implemented by Imperial College London to give more than 30,000 active users the support they need.
“We wanted to make a helpful bot that would be used by as many people as possible, and EBM has helped to make this a reality. The bot exists to help people collaborate and communicate in the way that suits them, making it easier than ever for employees and businesses to discover the accessibility tools available in the Microsoft stack.”
Director of Sales at Future Worx