Here are the new accessibility features in Windows 10 Insider build 15002

Dave W. Shanahan

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For people that need more help setting up their new Microsoft Surface or Windows 10 PC, Microsoft worked with the Windows Out-of-Box-Experience (OOBE) team to provide more accessibility options in Windows 10 Insider build 15002. Microsoft’s goal is to make setting up Windows 10 as fast and easy as possible without any technical expertise. While Microsoft has made great strides in accessibility improvements in Windows 10, Microsoft never made these accessibility improvements when setting up Windows 10 for the very first time.

Microsoft, Cortana, OOBE
Cortana OOBE

While this is still a work in progress, Microsoft hopes someday soon anyone will be able to set up Windows 10 with the sound of their voice using Cortana (where Cortana is available). With the new Windows Insider build 15002, you still won’t be able to fully set up your Windows 10 PC using Cortana and may run into some old OOBE accessibility pages. Microsoft is working on making Installation media ISOs available in the next week to allow Windows Insiders to try out the new Cortana installation experience.

In addition, Windows 10 Insider build 15002 has more accessibility features, including:

Narrator support for WinPE and WinRE: This build also now supports the use with Narrator from WinPE for installing Windows as well as troubleshooting options with WinRE. When we make the ISOs available for this build, you’ll be able to try this out by building a bootable USB drive or other bootable media and using the ISO files. After booting into WinPE, wait 15-20 seconds and then use the keyboard shortcut CTRL + WIN + Enter to launch Narrator. You will need to restart Narrator to use it after any reboot during the install process.

NOTE: Not all audio devices are supported. USB headsets are the recommended option for audio, since the full Windows audio drivers for the PC are not available in WinPE/WinRE. Built-in speakers may also work on some PC’s but if you do not hear Narrator announce that it is starting, try connecting a USB headset and restarting Narrator. Narrator Touch is not supported during OS install.

Braille support in Windows: Not too long ago, we mentioned Braille support was coming to Windows. That work is starting to appear in builds, and you will find a new button that offers the ability to download support for Braille via Settings > Ease of Access > Narrator. While this button is present, the feature doesn’t work yet so hold off on giving it a try for now. We’ll let you know in a future post when braille can be used.

Narrator users please take note that the Narrator keyboard shortcut is changing: To help reduce accidental launch of Windows Narrator, we have updated the hotkeys to be more intentional from WIN + Enter to Ctrl + WIN + Enter.

Narrator Improvements: We’ve made several improvements to Narrator for navigation when using Scan mode. You can now navigate to headings of a specific level by typing the number of the heading level you want e.g. 1 for the next heading level 1. Add shift for the previous heading.  In addition, Narrator’s Scan Mode now allows you to press Home and End to move to the start and end of a line of text respectively when pressed. Finally, when in Scan Mode you can press Ctrl + Home and Ctrl + End to move to the start or end of the web page or other content you are reading.

Improved legibility for UWP apps in high contrast: As part of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, we improved the legibility of many websites viewed in high contrast by showing an opaque layer behind the text. We recognize that similar to the state of websites on the Internet, many UWP apps have not been tailored to present an optimal experience for users who need increased contrast.  So, we’re taking a similar approach to improve how UWP apps look in high contrast. We’ve updated the XAML framework to now display an opaque layer behind the text and coerce semi-transparent UI to be fully opaque. This addresses the most common issues in apps like in the before/after screenshot below. These adjustments are applied by default in high contrast and apply to *all* XAML Store applications that run on Build 15002 and higher, whether they explicitly target this build (with the SDK) or not. However, applications that render their own text on something such as a SurfaceImageSource do not receive the automatic adjustment from the framework.

Microsoft, accessibility, Windows 10, UWP

As an added bonus, Windows Ink received a new accessibility option; there is a new rich color range experience when using Windows 10 using high contrast. The new rich color range experience in Sketchpad.

As always, Microsoft values your feedback, so if you have any comments, suggestions, or requests on accessibility, let Microsoft know! Reach out to Microsoft via @MSFTEnable on Twitter.