Windows 8 Designed for Broad Spectrum of People, Accessibility Features Detailed

Windows 8 is designed for an incredibly broad spectrum of people around the world. In the post, Microsoft's Jennifer Norberg, the lead program manager for the Human Interaction Platform team, talk about the engineering work that goes into the features refer to as "accessibility." The post is especially important for developers building Metro style apps […]

Windows 8 is designed for an incredibly broad spectrum of people around the world. In the post, Microsoft's Jennifer Norberg, the lead program manager for the Human Interaction Platform team, talk about the engineering work that goes into the features refer to as "accessibility." The post is especially important for developers building Metro style apps for inclusion in the Windows Store.

If you are interested in Microsoft's overall efforts in accessibility and related topics, please be sure to check out www.microsoft.com/enable.

Norberg wites, the company want all users to be able to experience Windows 8 Metro style apps on their desktops, laptops, or the new touch-capable devices. This includes people with disabilities who rely on assistive technologies to use the PC. Adding, he said about 15% of the world's population has a disability. In the US alone, 49.6 million people have a disability2 and 45 million in Europe.

"As a start, we updated our accessibility foundation with support for industry standards. By supporting standards from the Web Accessibility Initiative, Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA), HTML5, and XAML, it is easier for developers to code accessibility into their applications and for the ATs using UI Automation to consume the information that makes accessibility scenarios work on Windows 8," writes Norberg.

She notes, that Microsoft has added accessibly features to previous products, including:

Narrator, a Windows' built-in screen reader that allows people with visual impairments to interact with their system and applications has been redesigned to improve its performance so that it quickly reads out what you have selected. Also, added more languages and voices to Narrator to support additional countries and preferences. Microsoft also updated components and features within Windows to leverage UI Automation that allows them to be read by Narrator.

Windows 8 Narrator

"Right out-of-the-box with a new Windows 8 tablet, you will be able to press the Windows logo key and Volume Up to launch Narrator and walk through the setup of your machine. Whether you're blind, have low vision, or are fully sighted, you'll be able to start experiencing a Windows 8 tablet from the moment you get it."

In Windows 8, Narrator can also be accessed by holding down the Windows logo key and pressing the Volume Up button. Once Narrator is running, you can use Narrator's built-in touch commands to explore the screen and control your device.

Magnifier to make text and graphics large enough to see for people with low vision.

Speech recognition transcribes your voice to text quickly, and it is able to handle some uncommon words.

"When you start Magnifier on a touch-enabled device in Windows 8 (in the Ease of Access panel, set Magnifier to start when you press the Windows logo key + Volume up), you will immediately notice a border that appears around the edges of the screen. We know you will need to access all areas of the screen, so we made it easy to move the Magnifier around the screen using these borders. Simply drag your finger along the border to move Magnifier in that direction. When the border disappears, you are at the edge of the screen," she writes.

Adding, "the plus (+) and minus (-) buttons in the corners allow you to zoom in or out. We also built in support for multi-touch zoom using these same borders. Moving two fingers closer together or farther apart on the border allows you to quickly change the zoom level," she said.

and, On-screen keyboard has been available to those with mobility impairments since Windows XP.

Developers with Metro style apps, have an incredible opportunity to improve the accessibility ecosystem by creating and selling apps that meet a baseline of accessibility.

The dev platform and tools shipped for Windows 8 support making an accessible app through every step of the development process. When the app is ready for testing, they can use the Windows SDK accessibility testing tools to validate the markup to make sure they have features such as Narrator support, High Contrast mode and more. Once the app is complete, they can declare it as accessible during the Windows Store publishing process by selecting the Accessibility check box. This will allow users looking for accessible apps to easily find them in the Store.

Metro UI for Developers

She concludes with "In Windows 8 we have introduced new opportunities for developers to broaden their application's reach into the disability community. There is still work to be done in Windows to meet all the accessibility needs, but we would like to encourage people to try out the Metro style experiences with our free, updated Windows 8 ATs."