Windows 10 launches with accessibility improvements

Wednesday, 29 July 2015 15:19pm

The Windows 10 update has begun to roll out on a number of devices and has some significant improvements to the accessibility features previously available in Windows 8.1, particularly around the inclusion of the Siri-like Cortana digital assistant, more versatile dictation support and minor updates to existing accessibility features.

Windows 10 logo

The most significant addition to Windows 10 is the inclusion of Cortana, the digital assistant that provides similar, but more advanced, functionality to Siri found on Apple iOS devices. Cortana featured on the previous Windows Phone devices but has been significantly updated for Windows 10. While the ability to provide verbal commands to mobile devices has been available for some time, this is the first time such functionality has been available on a Windows desktop computer.

To use Cortana with a Windows 10 computer, say the launch phrase “Hey Cortana”, followed by your command or question. You can also click the microphone in the search bar. Windows 10 mobile users can also use Cortana by pressing and holding the Search option. A more detail description of Cortana commands based on a near-complete version of Windows 10 can be found in the Techranker Cortana commands article.

Cortana offers significant benefits to people with disabilities, particularly people with a mobility or vision impairment, as it allows for voice commands to provide access across a variety of computer functions such as searching for files, playing music, performing internet searches and using the ‘notebook’ feature whereby Cortana can keep track of particular things of interest to you. Its integration with the previously limited speech recognition dictation features also offers greater potential for using voice in a work environment such as dictating an email.

Outside of Cortana, Windows 10 also offers additional improvements to the desktop version of Windows, with minor updates to its exciting features such as Narrator, Magnifier and broader closed caption support.

While the updates aside from Cortana are relatively minor for Windows 8X users, upgrading from Windows 7 will see significant accessibility benefits as most accessibility features were completely revamped in Windows 8 to accommodate the multiple interfaces such as touch-screen tablets.

Microsoft has indicated that Windows 10 will be a free update for most consumers running Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 on computers and Windows Phone on mobile devices. Further information can be found at the official Windows 10 upgrade FAQ.

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