Microsoft Highlights the Accessibility Gains in Windows 11

Posted on July 1, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 11 with 14 Comments

With the Windows 11 drama starting to finally crest, Microsoft has begun sharing more information about the new platform. Starting with its accessibility features.

“I’m excited to share our ambition to empower people with disabilities to achieve more with Windows and more specifically, what’s coming in Windows 11,” Microsoft’s Jeff Petty writes. “We’ve got a lot to share.”

Petty says that Windows 11 was “redesigned” for productivity, creativity, and ease of use, and that accessibility was considered from the start, with inclusive design reviews of new and redesigned features. To ensure that this platform works well for those with disabilities, Microsoft used Trusted Tester conformance tests, usability tests, and other processes. And it will gather feedback during the Insider Program testing phase this summer and adjust as necessary.

Windows 11 ships with familiar assistive technologies like Narrator, Magnifier, Closed Captions, and Windows Speech Recognition, and it supports assistive technologies like popular screen readers, magnification programs, CART services, speech commanding, and the like. But it also includes many accessibility improvements over its predecessor.

New sound schemes can help those with vision problems to know when the PC has booted into the desktop or performed other tasks. People with light sensitivity can choose between Light, Dark, and High Contrast themes. The deaf and hard of hearing can use the improved Closed Caption themes. And everyone can take advantage of Windows Voice Typing, which uses AI to recognize speech, transcribe it, and automatically punctuate the resulting text.

Microsoft has also retired the terrible Ease of Access interface from Windows 10 Settings and replaced it with a new Accessibility area that makes finding, customizing, and using accessibility features easier.

“Finally, I am happy to share that we have been working closely with assistive technology industry leaders to co-engineer what we call the ‘modern accessibility platform’,” Petty adds. “Windows 11 delivers a platform that enables more responsive experiences and more agile development, including access to application data without requiring changes to Windows.”

You can learn more in the original blog post.

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Comments (14)

14 responses to “Microsoft Highlights the Accessibility Gains in Windows 11”

  1. ronh

    "Microsoft has also retired the terrible Ease of Access interface from Windows 10 Settings and replaced it with a new Accessibility area that makes finding, customizing, and using accessibility features easier"


    Much better!

    • dftf

      Sadly, not true though: they may have renamed "Ease of Access" to "Accessibility" in Settings, but as-of-now (the 22000.51 Dev build) I cannot see anything new or different from Windows 10 21H1 right-now (other than "Text Size" and "Visual Effects" being their own categories, not part of "Display").


      (Oh, and in typical Microsoft fashion: if you go into Control Panel, the old "Ease of Access" still exists, and if you click "All Apps" in the Start Menu, the folder is still called "Windows Ease of Access")

  2. dftf

    Oh boy does this article ever need some replying to!


    "But it also includes many accessibility improvements over its predecessor"


    Specifics would be nice...


    "New sound schemes can help those with vision problems to know when the PC has booted into the desktop or performed other tasks"


    I'm guessing this is a "not-done-yet" feature, as right now in the latest 22000.51 Dev build, if you go to Settings > Accessibility > Audio and click "Sound themes" it just opens the legacy "Sound" Control Panel applet, focused on the Sounds tab, where you have two choices: "No sounds" or "Windows default". So... no new schemes yet I can find?


    "People with light sensitivity can choose between Light, Dark, and High Contrast themes".


    You can literally do this right now in Windows 10: either use the standard "Light" or "Dark" themes, or go into Start > Settings > Ease of Access > High Contrast and pick a theme. What's new?


    "The deaf and hard of hearing can use the improved Closed Caption themes"


    If you install the latest Windows 10 Dev build (21354.1) into a VM, and go into Start > Settings > Ease of Access > Captions you'll see the same changes there. I'd expect accessibility improvements to get backported to Windows 11.


    "Microsoft has also retired the terrible Ease of Access interface from Windows 10 Settings and replaced it with a new Accessibility area that makes finding, customizing, and using accessibility features easier."


    This I really don't get.


    Unless Paul is referring to the old "Ease of Access" area in Control Panel (and has forgot about the one in the Settings app, which I seem to recall him praising at one-point how they made a change a while back to categorise options based on accessibility need in the left-hand panel), then how is the Windows 11 Settings area an improvement?


    The only stand-out difference is that "Display" has been removed, and "Text Size" and "Visual Effects" broken-out into separate categories. Otherwise, there is literally not one new category.


    Magnifier has actually lost some settings from Windows 10; Narrator may have also (there are so-many settings, it's hard to compare, given they're re-ordered within Windows 11). Captions in Windows 11 right-now has a massive CPU leak, where it constantly runs at 100% -- you have to completely close the Settings app and go back in to fix this! For every-other category, I see no differences in what settings are available compared to Windows 10 21H1 right-now.


    Maybe Paul just prefers the new layout and look of the new Settings app in Windows 11? Okay, sure, that's personal-preference, but I'd argue it's actually less-efficient than Windows 10's. In Windows 10, you click "Ease of Access" and then have all your categories on the left; you click one, and can then move your mouse over the right-hand area and use the scroll-wheel to quickly see what options exist. However, in Windows 11, you now have to click on a category, then click back (or use the breadcrumbs bar), then click the next category, which includes on lower-res displays having to scroll-down to get to the bottom-of-the-list categories each time, as it always returns to the top of the list, not your last scroll position.


    Seriously, using the Settings app in Windows 11 is way-more annoying now than in Windows 10 I find... it's a nightmare in-comparison when you first log into a fresh user-profile to go all through it.

    • Paul Thurrott

      It's unclear what the point of these comments is. I'm simply communicating what Microsoft is doing, not judging it or whatever. It's just a news post and accessibility. Serious WTF.

    • cruzallen

      Hello dftf, simply clicking on your name, I can see you're a very active user on this site, and I'm a newbie here. After reading the original article and your reply, I am curious. Why the harsh criticism for the author reporting a blog post? This is genuine curiosity. Are you someone who uses the accessibility features regularly? This seems to have struck a nerve. It seems like there is a lot of frustration on display in the reply and I am curious as to what is causing it.

      • GuyDye

        I also clicked on dftf and read three posts. It doesn't take long for me to grow tired of so much pessimism.


        I once had a friend that lived to remind us that something is always wrong...with everything: Windows, trees, the drawings of 2nd-graders found hanging on refrigerator's, etc. I wonder what he's up to today. ;/

    • Jasi

      I think you need to take some time off. Clear your head and think about what it is you really want to do in life...

  3. javial

    Accesibility gains? You mean better Accessibility losses. With that system requirements Windows 11 will be anything but accessible.

  4. richfrantz

    Anyone actually using the Speech Recognition? Last time I looked was in Win7 I think and it was terrible. Yet it works just fine on my phone. hmmm

    • chuckop

      I use it occasionally. Works fine given quality microphone and audio environment. The correction experience is better than anything on a phone.

  5. bls

    Is it just me or have the keyboard accelerators (underlined keys on the keyboard to use with alt) have disappeared? I feel like I'm working with one hand tied behind my back ;) Still looking for the setting to re-enable this.

  6. compuser

    So, I have a question that is completely off topic, but since this is the latest article on Windows 11, I'm asking it here, hoping someone sees it. In the Windows 10 Preview releases you could go to Windows Updates/Insider Program and see what insider level you're at, and the build/release number was displayed in the lower right corner of the desktop. Windows 11 doesn't seem to have either of those. All there is in the Windows Update/Insider Program are links for Get Help and Give Feedback. My question is, is this normal, or is my computer missing something? Thanks. I know it's probably a dumb question.

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