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Microsoft says it’s improving Windows 11 accessibility

Microsoft recently announced Windows 11, and we got a pretty good idea of what the new OS will bring to most users. Faster updates, a new visual experience, and much more make Windows 11 a very interesting product. And you can try many of those features right now if you’re in the Insider program. While Microsoft already touched on accessibility improvements in Windows 11, a blog post shared today goes more in-depth with them.

The company starts off by saying it wanted to make Windows 11 accessible from the start. To do that, it used conformance and usability tests from the DHS’s Trusted Center to ensure that the OS is accessible at launch.

As for actual features, Windows 11 includes tools that are already familiar, like Narrator, Magnifier, and Closed Captions. However, there are some improvements. For example, the closed captions settings have been vastly simplified. That’s something you can try right now, too. There are a few default options for closed captions, but you can also customize them to your needs.

Microsoft also introduced new contrast themes for the visual impaired, which Microsoft says are more pleasant to look at. Windows Voice Typing is also available for users with limited movement capabilities. Microsoft has redesigned the voice typing experience, but oddly enough, that doesn’t seem to be mentioned in this post. The voice typing feature itself is not new, but Microsoft is adding a new voice launcher for text fields.

One thing that’s actually new is the Accessibility settings page in Windows 11. Like the rest of the Settings app, it’s been massively overhauled to be more visually appealing and easier to navigate. The section used to be called Ease of Access, but now it’s called Accessibility.

Microsoft is also promising to make accessibility features “just work” in more situations. For example, Narrator can be used with the Office apps when they’re set up as a remote application integrated locally (RAIL). Linux GUI apps enabled by WSL also support accessibility features in Windows 11, like screen readers and color filters.

Finally, Microsoft also announced that it’s created the “modern accessibility platform” in partnership with industry leaders in assistive technology. The companies created new APIs that helped accessibility features work better with more apps. Microsoft also made it easier for some apps to expose certain data without requiring Windows updates. This way, developers can more easily implement UI automation extensions that access this data to make apps more accessible.

Of course, Windows 11 is still in preview, and there’s time for things to improve. Microsoft is encouraging users to join the Insider Program and give feedback on the accessibility features.


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