Microsoft has taken a major step in its bid to make Teams a ‘best-in-class experience’ for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, with the introduction of a new sign language feature.

With ‘Sign language view’, Teams users can ensure a translator who is signing a call features prominently on their screen, even during presentations or other full-screen activities. It also allows users to keep the signer in a consistent position on all subsequent calls, at a size that makes them easy to follow, and on a stream that’s of the highest possible quality throughout. Captions can also be automatically turned on for future calls, and users are able to display more than one signer at a time if they wish.

These new developments were announced on Microsoft’s blog by the company’s Accessibility Architect Chris Sano, in which he acknowledged: “I am all too familiar with the challenges that virtual meetings pose to Deaf and hard of hearing (D/HH) users. I face them too.”

Whilst these developments are an enormously positive step for Microsoft, Sano maintains that they’re exactly that – a step on a journey that will continue for some time still. He wrote how these features were “just the beginning”, and would soon be joined by many more, with the aim of not just making Teams usable for D/HH users, but “a delight”.

Sano called on other members of the D/HH community to help inform the future trajectory of Teams, as well as Microsoft’s other suite of products. He asked for input and engagement to make the process much more of a conversation, and to ensure Microsoft meets the needs of all its users.

Anyone who wants to take advantage of these new tools won’t have long to wait, with Sano explaining: “Sign language view and the accessibility settings pane are currently available in Public Preview, and will be rolling out to GA for the Teams desktop and web clients for commercial and GCC customers in the coming weeks.”