Last year, Microsoft announced a commitment to closing the disability divide and to work toward improving educational employment opportunities for people with disabilities around the world. The Windows 11 launch, last fall, included a whole host of accessibility improvements, such as appealing sound schemes, closed caption customizations, and a more responsive and flexible experience for working with assistive technologies and accessibility.
Since it’s launch, Microsoft is adding additional features, such as an immersive focus experience, system-wide live captions and more powerful voice access tools.
As we adapt to new hybrid workstyles, online meetings and remote collaboration offer the potential for constant distractions and mental fatigue.
Microsoft’s new Focus sessions are designed to build healthy digital habits and get more done. When users start a Focus session, Windows will turn on Do Not Disturb and turn off task bar badges.
Focus session is integrated with the Clock App. It launches a timer to help users focus and reminds users to take breaks, which is proven to improve productivity. Focus sessions is also integrated with Spotify, so users can optimize their environment with their favorite audio to get into and stay in the flow.
Live Captions Audio Content
Speech to text will be available in so many more contexts than before, according to Microsoft. Live captions on Windows 11 can automatically transcribe spoken content from any audio, including from applications like Microsoft Edge and even from microphones – which means users can get captions for a live, in-person conversation.
Live Captions is available now for Windows Insiders. Users can find live captions from Settings > Accessibility > Captions or from Quick Actions > Accessibility. Unlike most closed captions, which appear at the bottom of the screen, live captions on Windows 11 run along the top, right under the camera on most systems, which makes it easier to follow the captions while continuing to appear engaged in remote meetings – but they can also be moved to the bottom or into a floating window. Users can personalize the text with different fonts, font sizes and colors.
Those who find it difficult to use a keyboard and mouse, Microsoft’s Voice Access makes it possible for them, and everyone, to command and control their PC and to author content in any application using their voice. Voice access supports scenarios like opening and switching between apps, browsing the web, and reading and authoring mail. Voice access is available for Windows Insiders.
Natural Narrator Voice
Another new Windows 11 accessibility feature is a new narrator experience after receiving feedback that its voices were not that great to listen to. The new feature has a more natural voice for narration. Those who are blind or with low vision can enjoy scenarios like browsing the web, reading, authoring mail and more.
Natural Narrator voices leverages state-of-the-art text-to-speech on device with Windows. Once set up, the new voices are always available (without an internet connection) and are instantly responsive. The text to speech is processed on the device, without sending information to the cloud.