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(Credit: Microsoft)

Not everyone can easily type on a keyboard. Some people have physical limitations that prevent them from typing. Others have dyslexia, a condition that affects the brain's ability to process letters and numbers. And still others have a condition known as dysgraphia, which impacts someone's ability to write and spell. Now, Microsoft is trying to help such people more easily create documents.

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Microsoft's online Office suite, known as Office Web Apps, will incorporate voice dictation as an alternative means of creating documents and other files, the company said in a blog post. The initiative will start with Word and OneNote in the coming weeks. Voice dictation will then branch out to Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook online, a Microsoft spokesperson told Download.com, though she couldn't share a release date at this time.

Microsoft already offers voice dictation in its desktop Office suite, with Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook all sporting an icon through which you can dictate text. But that program carries a price tag in the form of an annual subscription for Office 365. Microsoft's Office Web Apps are freely available and easily accessible through any web browser.

Of course, anyone can use the existing voice dictation feature in Office 365 and will be able to use it in the online versions as well. But in its blog, Microsoft stressed the importance of offering such tools to people, especially children, with dyslexia and related conditions.

"We are honored to be the first company to sign the Made by Dyslexia pledge: to give the 700 million people with dyslexia around the world access to technology that empowers them to excel in their academic journey, and in life," Microsoft said. "The pledge calls on partners to build a better future for those with dyslexia and, together with Made by Dyslexia, we aim to democratize dyslexia support, so that every dyslexic child is understood and given the right support to realize their brilliant potential."

Microsoft unveiled other steps to aid children and students with dyslexia.

Office Web Apps already incorporates Immersive Reader, a tool that helps people better see and hear their documents. Now, Microsoft is expanding this tool. Immersive Reader will support students who have difficulty with math by adding options to read aloud, focus on specific lines, and highlight pages with colorful themes. Further, the company is adding Immersive Reader to Flipgrid, a video discussion platform where teachers, students, and families can share stories and ideas.

Immersive Reading is also joining Microsoft's Office Lens app for Android as well as for iOS. With Office Lens, people can scan documents with their mobile device's camera to digitize and store them. The Immersive Reading tool will allow users to hear any text in a scanned image. Immersive Reader will also now play a role in the Microsoft Translator app. For those who speak a language other than English, the tool will translate a page, word, or sentence in real time, with the ability to read the translated text aloud.

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Takeaways

  1. Microsoft is adding voice dictation to the free, online versions of Word and OneNote to help people with dyslexia.
  2. The company is also expanding the reach of its Immersive Reader tool, which helps people better see and hear documents.

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Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books - "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time" and "Teach Yourself VISUALLY LinkedIn."