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Microsoft announces new accessibility features coming to Windows 10

Microsoft Windows 10 accessibility cursor options screen
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has announced new accessibility features coming to Windows 10. Starting with the May 2020 Update, users will be able to adjust the text cursor (including choosing a custom colour), have websites read aloud through the Magnifier tool, and enjoy a new and improved screen reader app in Narrator—all in the name of making the operating system easier to use and open to all.

The text cursor will see its biggest change in decades with the May 2020 Update. Soon you'll be able to make the indicator significantly larger than the default, in case it has been getting lost amongst the screen furniture. The indicators colour can also be changed. Microsoft has laid out some bright preset colours to choose from, which are sure to stand out from the page, or you can choose your own from the custom colour picker.

The Magnifier UI has also been updated to accommodate a text-to-speech functionality across popular apps and browsers, such as Edge, Chrome, and Firefox. It also now can be set in dark mode (phew) and adjust to larger system text sizes.

Furthermore, the built-in Narrator tool within Windows has been redesigned to offer a more natural reading experience, with fewer unnatural pauses. This is achieved through processing complete sentences, as opposed to individual words, which can offer important contextual information to how a word or phrase should be read aloud. It is also capable of dealing with capital words and letters.

The changes to Narrator also feed into an improved web page reader experience, including a page summary tool that could dramatically reduce time needlessly surfing pages that don't offer the information you're looking for. The new functionality is supported across Chrome, Edge, and now Firefox. There's also been an effort to optimise Narrator support within Outlook, once again enabling more straightforward experience even when facing antiquated email layouts.

The May 2020 update will begin rolling out from the end of the month, from which point the accessibility updates will be reflected within Windows settings.

Most of the changes outlined in the May 2020 Update were due to feedback received from Windows Insiders, and Microsoft has asked for further feedback to keep the update cycle fresh and helpful. You can do so via the Windows Insider Program, or if you prefer the bog-standard OS you can also press Windows Key + F to launch the Feedback Hub and leave your comments there.

Microsoft also offers a Disability Answer Desk that is available via phone on (800-936-5900) or via chat if you don't fancy an international call.

Microsoft recently published a blog post for Global Accessibility Awareness Day that dives into the people and stories behind its push to make its products more accessible. Go check it out—it's a great read.

There's no 'Silicon Valley' where Jacob grew up, but part of his home country is known as 'the valleys' and can therefore it be easily confused for a happening place in the tech world. From there he graduated to professionally break things and then write about it for cash in the city of Bath, UK.