Microsoft previews upcoming accessibility features for Windows 10

Surface Laptop
Surface Laptop

Microsoft has been gradually improving its accessibility features with each Windows 10 update, and the Spring Creators Update will be no different. Additional improvements are planned to debut beyond the next feature update, however, and Microsoft has offered a peek at what its plans for Windows 10 accessibility over the next year will entail. Some of these features are already available in the latest Insider test builds, while others will show up in a later update.

One of the more prominent places to see improvements in the Ease of Access Settings page. Microsoft says it is working on making these settings easier to discover, while also making them easier to learn and use. Ease of Access settings are now grouped by vision, hearing, and interaction. New settings are also available, including options to make everything bigger or brighter, a dedicated audio page in the hearing group, and a speech and eye controller page in the interaction group.

Ease of Access Settings

Individual settings pages have also been tweaked to include common keyboard shortcuts that "are in line with the controls with which they work." Narrator users can now use it to navigate the Settings app using Landmarks and Headings as well.

Speaking of Narrator, Microsoft has some upcoming improvements in store for its as well. Outside of generally better performance improvements, navigation will now allow the Tab key to move forward from the current item being read instead of the current item with system focus by default. In Microsoft Edge, Narrator will now announce when a page begins loading, when loading takes longer than expected, and when the load finishes.

Rather than calling out specific formatting, Narrator will now be able to change its speed, pitch, and volume to emphasize different formatting such as italics, bold, underline, or all caps. Windows 10 will also support Urdu, Farsi, Ukranian, and Telugu out of the box. Lastly, Narrator will now run in Safe Mode.

While the feature is still very much in preview, Eye control is getting a boost as well, with three specific improvements. Here's a look:

  • Easier navigation with the addition of scrolling and direct left and right click capabilities
  • Acceleration to common tasks with quick access to Windows Start, Timeline, Settings, and device calibration
  • Flexibility to pause eye control, enabling you to hide the launchpad for uninterrupted reading, streaming, or relaxing without accidental clicking

Other upcoming improvements include additional Learning Tools features in Microsoft Edge for ePub files and Reading view. Microsoft says it is also planning to add text suggestions for hardware keyboards, providing the same experience you see with the on-screen keyboard today. The company is also working with partners to bring more third-party assistive technology experiences to the Microsoft Store.

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