Every year, 2% of the UK working population become disabled. There are approximately 10 million disabled people in the UK who are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act - representing around 18% of the population. A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment which has substantial and long term adverse effects on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Everyone at work is responsible for health and safety: both employers and employees. An employee should take reasonable care of your own health and safety, and the health and safety of anyone who might be affected by what you are doing; and to follow rules, warnings or guidance; inform your employer or manager if you see something that might harm you or someone else. An employer has many responsibilities including assessing and managing the work risks to everyone; and must include you in any health and safety information and training.

The design of a job, the equipment, information and work environment should all take account of individual capabilities and limitations, as far as is reasonably practicable.

When Microsoft looked at accessibility for Office 2010, they knew that the development of these functions was crucial to a successful launch. Microsoft received customer feedback from hundreds of thousands of users. From this feedback, it was apparent that accessibility is important for each and every feature.

Obviously there is a wide variety of disabilities that people who use Microsoft Office may have: blind people use screen readers; people who are deaf may use a particular device for notifications; and people with low vision use different tools such as magnifiers.

When the User Interface was redesigned and encompassed the Quick Access toolbar in Office 2010, it meant that Ribbon Customisations ensured users could put the buttons and tools that they need in the places that make sense for them.

Repetitive movement might be painful for people who have a particular mobility disability, and to address this, Office 2010 has improved keyboard shortcuts to avoid repetitive mouse clicking.

Check Accessibility is a tool which is built into Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2010 that scans the user's content before they send it out - listing specific issues that may be problematic with the option to fix anything that has been flagged up.

As improvements to accessibility are increasingly gaining attention from governments, accessibility improvements are also becoming a key area of focus for the software industry in general. And Office 2010 delivers features to users that provide better accessibility experiences across the PC, the Web and the phone.

Microsoft claims to aim to develop products so that there are more available to people with disabilities, and to help users create more accessible content. The following covers just some of the accessibility features in Microsoft Office 2010.

Accessibility Checker
Word 2010, Excel 2010, and PowerPoint 2010 include an Accessibility Checker that helps users create more accessible content. By identifying areas that might be challenging for users with disabilities to view or use, and providing a task pane to review those areas, users can fix potential problems with their content.

Backstage view
Actions previously found on the File menu or Microsoft Office button, such as Print and Save, can now be found in the Microsoft Office Backstage view. Commands are presented more logically and in more detail.

Hear text read aloud with Mini Translator
At times you may receive email messages or documents that contain words in unfamiliar languages. With the Microsoft Office 2010 Mini Translator, you can point to a word or selected phrase with your mouse and the translation displays in a small window. The Mini Translator also includes a Play button so you can hear an audio pronunciation of the word or phrase, and a Copy button so you can paste the translation into another document.

Add alternative text descriptions to shapes, pictures, tables, and graphics
You can now add a description to tables, PivotTables, images, shapes, and other objects, similar to a second level of alternative (ALT) text. This helps authors describe complex content to readers who cannot see those objects.

Use Full Screen Reading view
Word 2010 includes a Full Screen Reading view that improves the resolution and display of text for reading on the screen.

Use the keyboard to work with Ribbon programs
The menus and toolbars in all Office 2010 programs have been replaced with the Ribbon. To move through the Ribbon with a keyboard instead of a mouse, you can press CTRL+RIGHT ARROW or CTRL+LEFT ARROW on a Ribbon tab to move to the next or previous Ribbon group tab.

Create accessible web portals
SharePoint Designer 2010 includes a built-in compatibility checker for common accessibility standards to help make sure web sites are easy to use for everyone. More Accessible Mode in SharePoint Services provides greater accessibility for custom controls.

While Microsoft have tried to address many accessibility issues, they do recognise that there are still areas that need to be addressed. However, Microsoft do welcome comments on anything you feel might need further attention so that they can look at developing this for the next release.