Windows 10 is getting some smart new accessibility tricks

Windows 10 Eye Control

Microsoft is adding a raft of fresh accessibility features to Windows 10, with some of these already live in the preview version of the desktop OS.

For starters, Microsoft has made the Ease of Access settings easier to find and use, grouping features together under new categories such as ‘Vision’ or ‘Hearing’, and listing the most frequently used features upfront.

And to take an example, under Vision, in the Display subcategory, simple sliders have been implemented to ‘make everything brighter’ or ‘make everything bigger’ (make text and icons larger on the screen). New keyboard shortcuts have also been added for these settings.

Various enhancements are planned for Narrator, Windows 10’s screen reader, which will be tuned to be more responsive and to perform more reliably, and will be able to read embedded objects like text boxes in Word documents.

Narrator will also indicate the presence of text formatting like bolding or italics by using a change of speed, pitch or volume, rather than having to outright describe these things in a ‘start bold’ and ‘end bold’ fashion.

And it’s been improved when being used with Microsoft’s Edge browser, getting a number of new capabilities including the ability to announce when pages are loading (and if they’re ‘still loading’ after a time, should the user be stuck on a very slow website). Furthermore, Narrator will be available to use when Windows is running in Safe Mode.

Windows 10 accessibility

Tip-top tracking

Microsoft’s Eye Control feature was introduced last summer and lets you navigate around the desktop simply by looking to move the cursor. This has been further improved to allow for pausing eye tracking, so you can read a document without any danger of accidental clicking. Plus the ability to scroll, and directly left or right click have also been added.

A load of other tweaks are being made to Windows 10’s accessibility chops, and you can read the full list in Microsoft’s blog post.

We had some more good news for Windows 10 yesterday with the revelation that Microsoft has made improvements so that the next big update for the OS should only leave your PC in an offline state for around 30 minutes on average. (Offline refers to the part of the installation process where you can’t use your machine and are left watching that percentage counter tick up).