how to make windows 11 more accessible

Make Microsoft’s operating system easier to work with

In recent months, Microsoft has made it clear that accessibility is a top priority.

Alongside the new Surface devices in 2021, Microsoft released the first accessories dedicated to accessibility. The Surface Adaptive Toolkit uses several simple tools to make it easier to use almost any laptop, while upcoming Microsoft Adaptive accessories focus on simplifying the keyboard and mouse experience.

But making the program as simple as possible is just as important. Windows 11 has a section dedicated to accessibility under Settings, but there are a few other options you might not be aware of.

This article is inspired by Twitter thread from Microsoft Jen Gentleman, although the five features I highlighted are joined by five others here. However, some have not made their way to the final version yet.

Make the colors more unique

If you are color blind, it can be difficult to distinguish the muted tones of Windows 11. Fortunately, you can easily change the color filters to be more unique. Here’s how:

  1. Head to Settings > Accessibility
  2. Under the subheading “Visibility”, click on “Color Filters” and you will see a screen like below
  3. Click the toggle to turn on the color filters, then choose one of the six options. Usually ‘red and green’ options are good

Change pointer style, color and design

Everyone is familiar with not being able to find the cursor on the screen, but what if it happens daily? Windows 11 has a solution that allows you to completely customize the mouse pointer to your liking:

  1. Open Settings > Accessibility
  2. Scroll down to the ‘Interaction’ subheading and select ‘Mouse’
  3. Under Related Settings, select Mouse Pointer
  4. From the screen that appears, choose one of the four main styles. The vibrant green option can be customized in a different color if you prefer
  5. Regardless of your choice, the cursor can be resized by moving the slider between 15 different levels

Accessibility to Windows 11

Make the text bigger

By default, text in Windows 11 is very small. But there is an easy way to tweak that:

  1. Head to Settings > Accessibility
  2. Select “Text Size” from the screen that appears – it should be the first option
  3. Here you will find another slider that goes up to 225%. Once you are satisfied with your choice, press Apply and wait for the changes to be applied

Accessibility to Windows 11

One-key access to screenshot options

Most of us are familiar with hitting “Prt Scr” to capture the entire window, but what if you want more options? Instead of relying on Windows Key + Shift + S each time, you can set the Print Screen key to open the Snipping Tool in Windows 11 instead.

From there, you can choose a rectangular, freeform, or single window shot instead of having to crop later. Setting this is simple:

  1. Head to Settings > Accessibility
  2. Scroll down to the “Interaction” subheading and select “Keyboard”
  3. In the second section, you will find an option called “Use the Print Screen button to open the screenshot”. Click the toggle to turn it on

Accessibility to Windows 11

Take advantage of the magnifier

You’ve probably used the Ctrl + Plus and Ctrl + Minus shortcuts to zoom in and out of various applications, but Windows 11 has a solution that works for the duration of use.

It couldn’t be simpler – just press Windows Key + Plus or Windows Key + Minus to use it. This brings up the Magnifier toolbar, which can also be used to read aloud any text you highlight.

Accessibility to Windows 11

Focus on the task at hand

We all know how distracting using a PC can be, but Windows 11 has a tool to help. Simply known as Focus (formerly Focus Sessions), they are based on the Pomodoro Productivity Technique – a set period of focused work followed by a short break.

By default, incoming notifications will be blocked until you reach your rest period, plus there is integration with Microsoft’s To Do app and Spotify.

You can easily start focus sessions within the Action Center, but the full set of options make up one section of the Watch app.

Accessibility to Windows 11

Get Edge to read for you

Microsoft’s promotion of Edge is too aggressive for many people, but the browser has some really good features.

It includes an “omnibus reader” mode, which removes ads to make articles easier to read. Within this offer, you can also read the article aloud to you. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Open Edge and go to the article you want to read out loud
  2. Click the Immersive Reader icon in the address bar, which looks like a book with a small speaker
  3. From the options at the top of the page, select Read Aloud
  4. You can pause it at any time, or change the voice and playback speed by clicking on “Audio Options”

Accessibility to Windows 11

Get Windows to describe what’s on your screen

Windows 11 has a built-in narrator, which means that people who are blind and have low vision can still use a computer. To get started, simply head over to Settings > Accessibility > Narrator and turn on the relevant toggle.

Accessibility to Windows 11

A set of information will be displayed, helping you to understand how things work. Initially, there was only one robotic voice available, but this was expanded to include more natural voices. Once set up, they will all be available offline.

More accessibility features on the way

In a recent blog post, Microsoft reaffirmed its commitment to accessibility by announcing three new features. One was the new voices inside Narrator, but it’s worth highlighting the other two voices currently under testing.

For people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or non-native speakers, direct feedback is a game changer. Rather than relying on video apps to include captions, this can be used system-wide — including when you’re offline.

Then there’s the Voice Access feature, which lets you take full control of your Windows 11 device using just your voice. Microsoft says it supports opening and switching between apps, browsing the web, managing emails and more.

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