Microsoft Windows

Accessibility review: Microsoft Surface tablet

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Microsoft's Surface tablet has promised to deliver the best of both worlds: an easy-to-use tablet for games and entertainment but also a serious productivity device that has a detachable keyboard, trackpad and Office software. Our interest though lies in its accessibility – is it a worthy purchase for people with disabilities?  Dr Scott Hollier road tested the Surface tablet to find out how it fares for accessibility.

Cost

A 32GB Surface running Windows RT costs around $650 including the Touch cover.

Hardware

There are a number of features which make the tablet easy to use and versatile:


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NVDA adapted for Windows 8

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The popular free screen reader Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) has been adapted for use on computers with Microsoft Windows 8, including touch screen devices such as tablets and hybrid ultrabooks.

As Windows 8 focuses much more closely on the experience with touch, Microsoft has now ensured that assistive technologies can fully process touch input, and therefore provide a suitable touch experience for blind users. NVDA has been modified to allow it to receive input from a touchscreen that allows the user to not only read what is on the screen simply by tapping or dragging their finger, but also to activate other NVDA-specific commands or move around the operating system by object navigation.

Digital media and technology: 

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Windows 8 released with enhanced accessibility

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Microsoft has today launched Windows 8 and its tablet version, Windows RT, the latest operating system for computers and tablets. Rather than simply building on its predecessor, Windows 7, today’s releases overhaul the operating system’s design. 

As well as new features intended to help Microsoft compete with Apple and Google Android, such as an app store, Windows 8 is the first version since Windows 2000 to include radically enhanced access features.  


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Windows 8.1

Windows 8 and the slightly updated 8.1 marked a significant change from Windows 7 due to the introduction of features based on the use of a touch-screen device. While this led to significant improvement in the built-in accessibility features over Windows 7, many users found it difficult to use the touch-screen optimised environment using a traditional mouse and keyboard.


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