Microsoft highlights new accessibility features coming soon to Windows 11

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central

What you need to know

  • Microsoft is introducing new accessibility features to Windows 11 soon.
  • These new features include a new Live Captions tool, voice access control, focus mode, and more.
  • These features are now available in the Insider Dev and Beta Channel.

Microsoft highlighted several new accessibility features that will soon be rolling out to Windows 11 during the Ability Summit 2022 keynote. The company is pushing hard on building features designed to make Windows 11 easier to use for everyone, including people with disabilities.

Windows Insider has already tested most of these new accessibility features in the latest Dev and Beta Channel builds. These new features include a new Focus mode, live system-wide annotations, a new Voice Access tool, and more Windows Narrator natural sounds.

Focus on the windows

Focus in Windows

Source: Microsoft

Focus is an evolution of the Focus Assist and Do Not Disturb features from previous versions of Windows. It’s now integrated into the Notification Center, and can be enabled with the click of a button. Once enabled, Windows will reduce distractions, and hide notifications unless configured otherwise.

In addition, Microsoft has also built a new Focus Sessions feature in the Notification Center, which makes it easy to set an “Action” timer that will enable focus for a certain amount of time. When enabled, Windows will turn on Do Not Disturb as well as turn on taskbar badges to reduce distractions even further.

Live Comments

Focus in Windows

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft’s new Live Captions feature is a tool already available on Android. It’s a system-wide translation feature, which will analyze audio playback from any source and display the text when it recognizes the words being spoken. It’s a great feature, and it’s nice to see Microsoft build its own version for Windows PCs.

The feature is also customizable. It can be placed anywhere on the screen, be it the top, side or bottom of the screen. You can also change the size, font, and transparency of the text and the caption panel. Plus, Live Captions are analyzed and served locally, which means you don’t need to be connected to the internet in order to work (once the initial setup is complete).

Voice Access

Voice Access Picture

Source: Microsoft

The new Voice Access feature in Windows 11 is a more powerful version of the old speech recognition tool that lets you control your computer with just your voice. Instead of using a mouse and keyboard, Voice Access lets you interact with Windows using words and phrases.

When enabled, the user can ask Windows to do things like “open start” or “switch to the edge” and then interact with the app with common commands like “scroll down”, or if the user is not sure which commands they can use, they can ask “What can I say?” And Windows will present all the commands available to them.

Windows Narrator

More natural narrator voices

Source: Microsoft

Finally, Microsoft is highlighting more natural sounds for the built-in Windows Narrator feature. Remember Microsoft SAM? Well, he was fired. We now have Microsoft Aria, Microsoft Guy, and Microsoft Jenny, all of whom Microsoft promotes as having “natural” voices that are easy to understand.

Along with these highlights, Microsoft has announced a new comprehensive technology lab designed to help it build future products that are accessible to all people. Additionally, it announced a line of new adaptive PC accessories, highlighted the new accessibility features in Edge, and demonstrated how Xbox game developers can build more accessible games.

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