Microsoft details accessibility improvements in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

Microsoft has been gradually making strides in the realm of accessibility with each successive update to Windows, and it looks like the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is no different. The company has now revealed some of the improvements it has in store for the accessibility features in the fall update, covering narrator, low vision features, and reading and writing improvements.

Here's a look at some of what to expect from narrator, in particular:

  • Device learning mode – Narrator will include the ability to send commands from a keyboard, touch or braille display and get feedback about what the command does without invoking the command.
  • Usability improvements – Narrator will read controls more accurately and consistently, will include Scan Mode turned on by default (and remember whether Scan Mode is turned on or off in apps across sessions), and will read apps like Settings and Weather like a web page. Narrator continues to make progress toward a unified interaction model, where Windows apps and web pages can be navigated with a consistent set of commands so that Narrator is easy to learn and use without having to remember a large set of keyboard shortcuts.
  • Braille improvements – Narrator users can type and read using different braille translations. Users can also perform braille input for application shortcuts and modifier keys, which enables users to employ their braille display to perform common tasks such as pressing ALT + TAB to switch between active applications or pressing CTRL + B to bold text.
  • Automatically generated image descriptions – Narrator will include the ability to use artificial intelligence to generate descriptions for images that lack alternative text on demand. The service includes the ability to extract text from images using optical character recognition.

For those with vision-related disabilities, there are a couple of improvements in the pipeline as well. Magnifier, for example, will follow Narrator focus. This should make it easier to use the two in concert. Desktop Magnifies is also getting an option to smooth fonts and images, along with mouse wheel scrolling to zoom in and out. Finally, color filters are being added at the system level to make windows easier to navigate for users with color blindness.

Tools to assist in reading and writing are also being introduced. Here's a look:

  • Learning Tools in Edge – In addition to eBooks, Read Aloud or simultaneously highlighting and voicing text, Learning Tools will be supported on web pages.
  • Word predictions – In addition to the touch keyboard, word predictions will be supported for U.S. English using hardware keyboards.

This is all an extension of groundwork that was laid with the Creators Update this spring and the Anniversary Update before that. As an added bonus, Microsoft also notes that it will provide an upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro for assistive technology users at no charge. That eliminates the $49 fee that other Windows 10 S users will have to contend with should they want to upgrade.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl