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New Accessibility Improvements In Latest Windows Update

Microsoft are releasing a new October 2018 update with lots of new features for blind and partially sighted users.

Ease of Access Updates

You now have more ways to see Windows 10 your way, with the addition of text size customization across the platform. From the “Display” page in Ease of Access settings or by typing “larger text” in the search bar, you can adjust a single global text size slider to make text bigger across Windows, efficiently making just the words bigger without affecting the entire visual layout. You can customize text size in conjunction with DPI scaling, otherwise known as the “Make Everything Bigger” setting. As the name implies, this feature makes everything on the screen larger, which can sometimes reduce productivity for users with low vision by requiring more panning or scrolling. By complementing DPI customization with text size customization, users now have more options to tailor their Windows 10 display.

Microsoft say many users with low vision not only prefer more levers to customize their experience, but they also prefer using multiple tools together. The custom text size works great with Magnifier, which provides new ways for you to optimize your experience. You can choose to keep your mouse centred on the screen, which can be particularly helpful at higher magnification levels, so you do not lose your mouse or focus when trying to navigate. There are also added smaller increments of 5 percent and 10 percent for adjusting zoom level, so you can have even more control of your magnifier experience.

Narrator Improvements

Microsoft have continued to make Narrator, the built-in screen reader, easier to learn and use. There are two key updates.

  • Narrator QuickStart: When Narrator launches, a new QuickStart tutorial experience will be available to teach you Narrator basics such as keyboarding, navigation and editing. At the end of the QuickStart there is a link to the User Guide where you can continue learning about Narrator.
  • Improved and more familiar keyboard: Narrator now comes with a new keyboard layout designed to be more familiar to screen reader users. Differences in the keyboard layout are designed to improve keyboard ergonomics and usability, e.g. with improved mnemonics.

They’ve also made narrator easier to use with improved navigation and efficiency.

  • Easier navigation: With Narrator Find, you now can search for specific text, which Narrator will then move to if found. Narrator can also now present a list of objects, such as links, headings, or landmarks that you can quickly filter to find what you want. Refer to the Narrator user guide for command mapping.
  • Increased efficiency: Narrator will now automatically read dialog boxes, such as the Word dialog box that appears when you try to close a document with unsaved changes. We have also made two key improvements to Scan Mode, a narrator feature that simplifies navigation by primarily using just the up and down arrow keys, to enable a more seamless experience:
  • Narrator stops on interactive elements like links so you can more easily interact with them, or you can continue reading with just a press of the down arrow.
  • You have more options for selecting text while in Scan Mode including commands to copy an entire block of text without holding down the Shift key. Narrator’s selection commands will copy the format of the text being copied such as headings, lists and more. You can also now speak the selected text using a Narrator command. Refer to the Narrator user guide for additional information on Narrator selection commands or use the Show Commands List Narrator command by pressing Caps + F1.

Reading and Writing Improvements

In addition to Ease of Access and Narrator updates, the October 2018 Update also brings more ways to improve reading fluency and comprehension and author text.

Within Microsoft Edge, you now have more flexibility with web browsing and reading with new ways to customize your learning experience with Learning Tools. First rolled out in the Fall Creator’s Update a year ago, they added Learning Tools like read aloud to the web browsing experience. The April 2018 update then came with the addition of grammar tools, enabling you to break words into syllables and highlight parts of speech.

Microsoft are making Learning Tools even more powerful with the October 2018 update. With any ePub or webpage in reading view, you can customize the page theme color with Irlen colors that make it easier to decode text. You can also turn on line focus for a webpage in Reading view to help you concentrate. Additionally, you now have more ways to personalise grammar tools: you can customize the highlight colour for parts of speech or turn on labels within the text if you find it difficult to disambiguate between colors. Should you run into words you are unfamiliar with, you can quickly look them up in the built-in dictionary that also works offline*.

Writing experiences are also improving. Text suggestions, which suggests the top three word candidates as you type, is now expanding to 50+ languages since its debut in the April 2018 update.

More Information

Find out more about the update and how to get it from Microsoft

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Computers, Windows PCs

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