Windows 10 will be getting a raft of improvements on the accessibility front when the Fall Creators Update arrives later this year, including enhanced features for Narrator.
Narrator, which is the operating system’s screen reading utility, will be graced with a ‘device learning mode’ which will allow the user to send a command from a keyboard, or a touch or Braille display, and simply get feedback on what that command does (as opposed to actually carrying out the command).
That means users can learn more about commands without actually triggering them and doing something they might not want to do.
There will also be various overall Braille improvements, which will allow for the use of shortcuts with modifier keys such as Alt-Tabbing, alongside a host of usability tweaks – like being able to read the Settings and Weather apps (amongst others) as if they are a web page.
Overall, the idea is to get Narrator working seamlessly and consistently with a single set of commands over both apps and web pages, making it easier to use all-round. Oh, and the tool will (optionally) automatically make up its own image descriptions using AI, if no such descriptions have been provided.
- The Microsoft Surface Book will soon be more accessible as a result
Other moves to improve Windows 10’s accessibility will include tweaks to make things easier for users with low levels of vision, including a more useful Magnifier which follows Narrator’s focus and offers new options for smoother fonts and images – and the ability to zoom in or out using the mouse wheel.
The operating system will also get new color filters to allow for those who are color blind to more easily differentiate between colors, and also to make life easier for those with light sensitivity issues.
Microsoft also noted that with the Fall Creators Update, US English word predictions will be added for those using hardware keyboards, and Edge will be bolstered as learning tools will be supported on web pages within the browser (as well as with eBooks).
Finally, the software giant also announced (opens in new tab) that those running Windows 10 S who make use of assistive technology will be able to upgrade from the lightweight OS to full Windows 10 Pro for no charge.
How Microsoft will verify the need for assistive technologies is another question – as you may recall that this was one of the routes some folks made morally questionable use of for grabbing a free upgrade from Windows 7/8.1 to Windows 10 after the freebie offer had expired.
- Is it time to buy the Windows 10-powered Microsoft Surface Pro 4?