Computers have become an important part of our lives, even more in these times of confinement and social distancing. However, not everyone has the luxury of being able to use a computer normally or even seeing what is displayed on the screen. People who are blind or visually impaired always find that using a computer is more than just a hassle.
To mark this year’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Microsoft is proposing changes to Windows 10 that, while minor, could mean a world for these users, including making the text cursor easier to see and follow with with the integrated magnifying glass function. New text-to-speech features are also included in the magnifying glass, as well as improvements to Narrator (Windows’ built-in screen reader), which will all be implemented in the May 2020 Update.
Windows 10 already has a set of accessibility features that cater to people with low vision as well as those who are blind. Most of the features in Windows 10 are to make things more visible by increasing or enlarging the contrast. It turns out that in many cases these measures are not always enough.
While users can change the look of fonts and even the mouse cursor, it’s not as easy to know where the text cursor is. From now on, they can change not only the thickness of this text cursor, but also the colors of the cursor indicator for better visibility.
And when reading a text, even an enlarged one, becomes tiring, the new magnifier can read this text aloud instead. Text-to-speech and screen readers are mostly used by those who cannot see completely. With the latest Windows 10 update, these features become smarter and more natural. The magnifier also has a new text-to-speech feature which allows you to read text in browsers or applications (Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Word, Outlook and PowerPoint are all called by name). To this end, the Magnifier app has new media control buttons, which allow users to easily control playback.
All available with May 2020 Update
Finally, Microsoft has made improvements to Narrator, its screen reader that lets you use Windows without being able to see the screen. Microsoft has added options to hear sounds instead of full sentences to toggle actions, and it has added better support for announcing capital letters and words. Narrator also offers a better web browsing experience, adding support for Firefox, an option to automatically start reading web pages, and a function that provides a summary of the entire page.
These new accessibility features will be available to everyone in the future Windows 10 feature update, May 2020 Update. Microsoft is also calling for more testers to join its Windows Insider program to help shape these features for the benefit of everyone, especially those who need them most.