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Windows 10’s May Update will improve accessibility features for low and no vision users

Microsoft marked Global Accessibility Awareness Day yesterday by announcing plans for improved accessibility features in Windows 10. The listed changes mainly focus on accessibility features for those with low or no vision, including text cursor customisation and quite a few improvements to the Narrator feature. These changes are scheduled as part of the May update for Windows 10.

The text cursor is getting a literal beef-up as Microsoft say many users have told them the cursor is difficult to find when it’s too small and doesn’t contrast enough on text. You’ll be able to increase the thickness of the cursor itself and add an indicator (seen above) with a custom size and color to help it stand out.

Windows 10’s built in screen reader Narrator is getting some improvements as well. They’ve aimed to make reading more natural by “reducing unnatural pauses and processing complete sentences to aid with proper pronunciation.” They’ve also redesigned Narrator sounds to improve efficiency. “For example, rather than having to hear ‘scan on’ or ‘scan off’ when switching between scan mode and other modes, now you can choose to hear tones instead of the words,” they say.

Narrator will now start automatically reading web pages from the top. “Automatic reading is intended to improve efficiency and give users confidence that the intended page loaded.” You can also get a page summary on demand, which Microsoft say should help understand the complexity of a page. Another hotly requested feature, they say, is the ability to find out where a link goes before clicking it to assist with ambiguous link text like “click here”.

“While we are excited to share our progress, we recognize that we have more work to do to create delightful experiences for people with disabilities,” say Microsoft “Thank you to the many people who have provided feedback—both positive and constructive—to help make Windows great.” You can add your own thoughts by participating in the Windows Insider Program.

There are plenty more details in Microsoft’s post including more on changes to the Narrator, changes to the Outlook mail application, and the improved Magnifier.

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