Improving OWA Accessibility

What can I do to make Outlook Web Access (OWA) on Exchange Server 2003 more accessible to users who have vision problems or who can't use a mouse easily?

Accessibility information for OWA is hard to come by, but I've picked up a few tips by checking out how different organizations are teaching their users to use OWA. One technique is to override the generally small font sizes that OWA uses by using a Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) setting to allow the user's font-size choice to apply to all Web pages. To change that setting in IE, choose Tools, Internet Options; click Accessibility; then select the check box for Ignore font sizes specified on Web pages. Figure 3 shows how OWA looks with that setting turned on and IE's View, Text Size option set to Largest.

When you display the Inbox in OWA, the keyboard focus is on the list of messages in the center column of the window. You can use the up and down arrow keys to browse the list of messages. As you do so, each message is displayed automatically in the preview pane. To delete a message, press Delete. Many familiar keyboard shortcuts in desktop Outlook (or close substitutes) also work in OWA 2003. Table 1 shows some shortcuts that work in OWA.

If a reminder pops up while you're working in OWA, you can press Tab to cycle through the controls on the Reminder dialog (i.e., Dismiss, Open, Snooze, Close), then press Enter to execute the selected command. To change the snooze interval, press Tab until you select the snooze interval drop-down list, then press Alt+down arrow to display the choices in the list. Use the up and down arrow keys to make your selection, then press Enter. Similarly, after you press Ctrl+N to create a new message or other item, you can use the Tab key to move around in the new item's dialog box.

To use the keyboard to switch to another folder, press the Tab key. Each time you press Tab at the main OWA screen, the dotted rectangle that highlights the location of the keyboard focus moves to a new position on the screen. Press Tab until the rectangle appears in the Folders list in the navigation pane. Continue pressing Tab until you select the desired folder, then press Enter to display that folder.

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