Windows 8 will feature improved accessibility features, making it easier to use for those visual impairment or other disabilities. The new features have been shown off on the Building Windows Blog, in a post by Jennifer Norberg, senior program manager of the Human Interaction Platform team
The age-old accessibility tool, the Narrator, will be able to assist Windows 7 users upgrade to Windows 8, talking the user through the download and set-up process. Narrator in Windows 8 will come with many enhancements, including the ability to choose a voice, change speed of output, and create personalized commands. Narrator will also feature better support for reading web pages. In tablets, a Windows button plus Volume Up shortcut will call the Narrator up.
Other touch-based accessibility features, destined for tablets and touchscreen monitors, will allow users to use various types of magnifier zoom with different gestures, and on screen Plus and Minus buttons. Narrator can also be accessed by tapping specific areas of a screen, and types of icons.
The biggest change that Microsoft will bring with Windows 8 are the Metro UI style apps, and the company wants to ensure users with disabilities will be able to enjoy them as well. The Metro UI also gives developers the opportunity to present accessibility settings in a new way, with key settings displayed in a manner that was easy to use. Settings will include simplified toggles for high contrast, size of UI elements, and DPI scaling.
The blog post admitted that Windows still has a long way to go to completely meet the needs of people with disabilities, but the new OS will be making many new steps to that end. Microsoft will be providing standard developer tools with baseline accessibility features built-in, to ensure most apps in the Windows Store will be accessible. New tools and guides will also be available. The company will be engaging assistive technology vendors (ATVs) as well, urging them to adopt Windows 8 and build upon the accessibility scenarios.
An accessibility filter for the Windows Store will also be available, helping users find only those apps with the features built in. The Windows Store will also feature a special comments and ratings section, to let other users know which are the best apps, and to give developers feedback on their products.
Norberg added: “If you are a user with accessibility needs, we think you will like what we have done. If you are a developer, build an accessible app and reach a larger spectrum of users! If you are an AT (assistive technologies) vendor, come work with us and refresh your applications using our platform. This is an exciting and compelling release that will change how people of all abilities interact with PCs.”