Software

New Windows 10 accessibility features will improve many lives

Accessibility in an enterprise setting can be essential to both the business and the individual. The next build of Windows 10 will make many lives easier to manage.

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Image: Microsoft News

On February 1, 2017, Microsoft announced the release of Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15025 for PC to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring. While the build has been dubbed the primary build for the second Creator's Update Bug Bash, there is actually something more interesting about it than that. Build 15025 marks the addition and improvement of several accessibility features directly requested via customer feedback.

The ubiquitous nature of Microsoft Windows 10 requires that the operating system at least try to accommodate as much of its diverse customer base as it can. This accommodation is particularly important for individuals coping with physical impairments. Microsoft's commitment toward full inclusion is good business, and so much more.

SEE: Tech Enabled (CNET series)

More accessibility

For those who don't know, Windows Insiders opting for the Fast ring release track get to install and work with beta versions of the next Windows 10 update release before it goes out to the general public. For businesses and their IT departments, it provides a chance to test the operating system in an enterprise environment and find any problems or bugs. It also affords those businesses the opportunity to suggest changes and provide valuable feedback to Microsoft.

One of the new features in Build 15025, and consequently one of the features Microsoft would like to see some feedback on, is braille support for Narrator. This will be an important feature addition to Windows 10 for the vision impaired, but Microsoft needs input regarding how well the various braille tables attach and work with the system. Documentation for this endeavor is going to be paramount, so any customer feedback will be greatly appreciated.

Another Ease Of Access setting added to Windows 10 Build 15025 is a mono setting for audio output. Vision impaired users of Windows 10 often use a screen reader application to read the PC screen content and information to them. It is not unusual for these individuals to use a single headphone or earbud for this application while they have conversations with others—in a meeting during a presentation, for example.

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Image: Microsoft News

With a mono setting available, the vision impaired user can direct a single channel for audio and not have to worry about the other headphone or earbud disturbing the meeting or having to use a physical earphone adapter to compensate. A simple idea, but one that can be important in a business environment.

You may not notice it, but the light normally emitted by a computer screen is tinted toward the blue part of the spectrum. According to research, this blue light can disrupt a person's sleep patterns. Build 15025 is improving the ability of Windows 10 to adjust the color temperature of the PC display for nighttime viewing. With this setting, we can work on our computers right up until bedtime without disrupting our sleep—at least not disturbing our sleep because of blue spectrum light.

SEE: 10 quick tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want

Bottom line

Regardless of their size, all businesses operate in a diverse environment with users of different cultures, backgrounds, and capabilities. The IT systems deployed in such an environment must be flexible and malleable to accommodate as many situations as possible. Microsoft understands this and is constantly looking for ways to make Windows 10 more accessible and accommodating to users with special needs. Build 15025, which is currently available to Windows Insiders, is just the latest example of this effort. If they are not already, IT departments servicing users with special needs should take advantage of this testing opportunity.

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Your thoughts

Does your IT department support special needs users? What challenges have you overcome? Where do you still need some help? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.


About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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