Almost 20 million Americans — 8 percent of the U.S. population — are blind or have visual impairments. Accordingly, organizations and businesses in nearly every industry stand to benefit from the use of vision related accessibility tools, which can increase employee productivity and provide a more inclusive user experience. To address this need, M365 incorporates a slew of tools and features – such as screen readers, text-to-speech, and color filters – that make it easier for end users with visual impairments to access, use, and benefit from M365 products. However, because these tools may collect and store user data in ways that may not be immediately apparent, businesses employing them must remain cognizant of the potential downstream risks associated with their use. Listen to our latest Tech Law Talks podcast episode, M365 accessibility: Vision-specific tools, as we discuss.

For example, due to the potential data uptake associated with various accessibility solutions, organizations should ensure they understand, monitor, and establish procedures around the types and quantities of data collected, how it is retained and stored, and when it is deleted. This is especially important in the E-Discovery realm, where the types of data being collected – such as text generated by a screen reader that uses AI to interpret and describe images – may be subject to collection and preservation requirements. Moreover, because M365 products are constantly changing, organizations must monitor, adapt, and refine their data management plans periodically to account for changes which may introduce new regulatory and legal risk. Furthermore, businesses must consider data privacy and security implications, particularly around disclosure obligations owed to employees and users regarding how these tools collect and process their personal data and whether third-parties may have access to the data used by these accessibility tools.

In short, M365 vision-related accessibility tools can help organizations provide robust, inclusive, and productive digital experiences for both employees and customers. But, because of the innate design requirements of these tools, which inevitably introduce certain types of enterprise data risk, businesses utilizing M365 should work to develop a framework capable of documenting, monitoring, and addressing such risks.