The feature makes the platform more accessible to Deaf and hard-of-hearing users.

Microsoft Teams Introduces New Sign Language Feature Image

(Credit: Fajrul Islam / Getty Images)

Microsoft has made it easier for users of its video conferencing platform Microsoft Teams to use sign language through a new meeting experience called ‘Sign Language View.’

The feature allows users to prioritize up to two other participants’ videos so they stay visible and in a consistent location throughout the meeting.

In a blog post(Opens in a new window), Chris Sano, Microsoft Team’s Accessibility Architect, said the feature is a “first step toward addressing several asks from the Deaf and hard of hearing community.”

Like pinning and captioning, the feature does not impact what others see in the meeting, and when running the video feeds of designated individuals stay visible if their video is on. Sign language view also allows for participants to be pinned or spotlighted without encroaching on or hiding the sign language interpreter.

The feature ensures that the prioritized signer remains high quality and at a larger size than the video feeds of undesignated participants in the call, even when someone shares content in the meeting or shares their screen, for example.

The move also means that users will no longer have to select settings at each meeting: in a new accessibility pane in the settings menu, sign language view can be turned on by default across all meetings. Users can also pre-identify a set of preferred signers who are regular interpreters so that and set captions as a default across meetings.

Sign language view and the new Accessibility pane are currently available to try in Public Preview(Opens in a new window). This can be switched on in a personal capacity if a user’s organisation has it enabled. Microsoft has said that the features will be going out to Teams desktop and web clients for commercial and GCC customers in the coming weeks.

In September Zoom also updated(Opens in a new window) its accessibility software for Deaf and hard-of-hearing users. The platform allows meeting and webinar hosts to designate multiple participants as sign language channel interpreters, and participants can choose which sign language interpretation they see.

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Kwame Anane

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