Microsoft has unveiled new accessibility features that will launch soon for Windows 11, as well as a line of accessories for people with disabilities. Four notable features are coming, including a more immersive Focus mode, instant system-wide subtitles, more powerful voice access tools, to go along with more natural voices for Narrator. The company announced that these new accessibility options should be ready for the launch of the stable version of Windows 11 22H2.
In a blog post on Tuesday, Microsoft explained how these additions will help the disability community access Windows 11, which launched on October 5, 2021 and whose adoption remains relatively slow. Microsoft has already started testing these features with users enrolled in the Windows Insiders program. The Focus feature is located in the Notification Center and can be activated with a single click. Focus mode will allow you to prioritize which notifications you want to appear when it’s activated, which greatly simplifies the whole process.
Focus mode sessions are another new addition that will help you improve your productivity in Windows 11. By enabling it, Windows 11 will turn on “Do Not Disturb” and disable taskbar badges, while also starting a timer. to remind you to take breaks between tasks. As a bonus, this feature comes with integration with the Clock app and Spotify. As for the Live Captions functionality (instant subtitles), it is the same as that seen on Android and works like subtitles. Above all, it can be personalized and displayed anywhere.
As the name suggests, Windows 11 will automatically transcribe the content of any audio clip. Moreover, the feature works without an internet connection since the subtitles are generated on the device. Also, the Voice Access feature of Windows 11 seems much more powerful than the usual voice recognition which only uses voice. With simple words, you can now communicate with Windows. When you first enable voice access, Windows 11 prompts you to download a voice template for device speech recognition to help you get started.
Another great feature is the Windows Narrator, which uses Windows 11’s built-in natural voices, so you can now say goodbye to complex sounds that make it hard to understand. This should allow visually impaired people to enjoy scenarios such as web browsing, reading, writing mail, etc. All of these features are expected to launch with Windows 11’s 22H2 update, which the company is preparing to reach RTM (release to manufacturing) status this month. These additions should help disabled users as well as regular users.
Finally, another point worth mentioning is the “Inclusive Tech Lab” division created by Microsoft to help develop products and accessories that could be made available to the masses. The company also announced plans to unveil more PC accessories through a new line aimed at the disabled community. The accessories seem to be very flexible in terms of usage and have been designed with various customizations in mind. Microsoft has placed an exciting new range under its hardware product line with the label: adaptive accessories.
It includes an adaptive mouse, buttons and hub, all highly configurable. This means that they can be used to support various features. Besides that, you can find custom 3D gadgets that add a special touch to different cases. The company explained how it was able to create these new accessories by taking inspiration from the adaptive controller that is part of the success of Xbox. According to Microsoft, the new line of products for people with disabilities will really help those who have difficulty using the traditional mouse and keyboard.
In addition, the new features can also help eliminate areas of pressure or pain that some may feel while doing their work routinely. Regarding the launch date of the accessories, Microsoft hopes to market them next fall, but no pricing strategy has been announced.
Source: Microsoft (1, 2)
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