Windows 10 Creators Update to bring support for braille input

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Windows 10 Creators Update is set to arrive early next year with a range of new features focused on creativity, 3D, virtual reality, and more. Today, in a new blog post, Microsoft’s Accessibility team detailed some of their plans for 2017. The team also revealed the upcoming accessibility improvements coming to Windows 10 with the Creators Update next year.

Firstly, Microsoft will bring support for braille to Narrator in Windows 10. With the Creators Update, Windows 10 will support braille displays from more than 35 manufacturers. The feature will be introduced as a beta product in the Creators Update, and Microsoft will improve it with future updates to the OS.

In addition to braille support, Microsoft is also introducing a new way of launching Narrator in Windows 10, along with new text-to-speech capabilities and improved audio expeirences. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

  • Braille: Support for braille is coming! The Creators Update will include beta support for braille input and output. The beta will support braille displays from more than 35 manufacturers, using more than 40 languages and multiple braille variants, including grade 2 contracted braille.
  • Unassisted installation: Users will soon be able to install the Windows 10 Creators Update using Narrator throughout the installation process, including from within Windows RE/PE for setup & troubleshooting.
  • New way to launch Narrator: We have changed the quick keys used to launch Narrator to address feedback from many Windows 10 users. Users can now launch Narrator by clicking CTRL + WIN + ENTER. WIN + ENTER no longer launches Narrator. Users can still launch Narrator from Cortana or from the Settings Window.
  • New text to speech voices and capabilities: We are adding more than 10 new voices. In addition, there will be Narrator support for multilingual reading, so that Narrator seamlessly switches between languages when you have the corresponding voices installed.
  • Improved audio experiences: We implemented dynamic ducking, so Narrator will only reduce the volume of other applications like Groove or Pandora when it is speaking. The handshake between Narrator and Cortana is also improved, so Cortana won’t transcribe what Narrator (or other screen readers) is speaking.
  • More general reliability and usability improvements: We added features to make it easier to understand the context of a control with which you are interacting and to make it possible to discover information about objects like the background color of a table cell. Narrator will remember and maintain your mode, e.g. scan mode, across applications. Narrator cursor positioning improvements include stopping and starting where you expect when reading in scan mode and when reading by line, paragraph and in continuous reading.
  • Easier web browsing with Edge: Narrator responsiveness is improved with Edge and several new features have been added, including the ability to jump directly to a form element like a check box, text field or button, and the ability to navigate by heading level.
  • Improvements across devices: It will be now be possible to use a controller to drive Narrator interactions on Xbox. The ability to adjust the pitch and speed of the Narrator voice on Xbox has also been added.

Along with Windows 10, Microsoft will also introduce accessibility improvements for Office in 2017 which is also pretty exciting. The company plans on introducing built-in controls for authoring accessible content and personalizing reading experiences in Office 365 next year, along with some other improvements.

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