Earlier this year I was a guest at Microsoft in Sydney, where I delivered a keynote address on how I use Windows, and related MS products such as Office 365 at the company’s quarterly exchange conference.
I came away from that experience super impressed at how everyone at Microsoft from the CEO onwards is committed to accessibility, and empowering everyone on the planet to achieve great things, which is Microsoft’s mission statement.
Hello Autumn update
Back when Windows 10 as a service was launched, Microsoft did away with this idea of shipping whole numbers such as Windows 11, instead Windows 10 is the final Windows, but will continue to get major updates, as well as smaller patches known as cumulative.
So, what does this mean for accessibility?
Major adaptive tech vendors have worked with Microsoft and continue to work with Microsoft to make sure we blind are taken care of, one such example is NV Access and how well NVDA plays with the new browser Edge, JAWS 2018 (recommended to take full advantage of the Autumn update also works very well).
A brief note on Edge as it relates to JAWS and Edge, whilst it now does work, the experience is in my opinion not up to scratch.
If you value productivity stick with Internet explorer or Google’s chrome.
As a recent blog post on the Freedom Scientific points out, Edge is still a work in process, and I have full confidence that the bright minds at VFO and Microsoft will get it right, so that Edge can be brought to the level of productivity that we blind are used to in IE.
A whole lot, from being able to control Narrator from a braille display, to Cortana being able to shut down your PC, there’s a bunch of good stuff in the Autumn update.
My favourite thing about the 1709 feature update, is how smoothly the upgrade went.
I updated both my Del desktop and laptop, and the installation took less than 9 minutes.
You can get the update in 2 ways, via Windows update when your PC in forms you that it’s been downloaded, or by using Microsoft’s Media creation Tool, both methods allow you to do a clean install, or an in-place upgrade, if you choose the clean install, all your data will be lost thus, I highly recommend backing-up beforehand.
If you’re in enterprise or Government, consult your system admin.
It’s very clear that the future of Windows is very bright indeed, the accessibility message has been gotten loud and clear by the company, and it was evident to me when I met reps from the firm in Sydney, Microsoft is 100% committed to accessibility, just look at their Twitter @MSFT enable, and the wonderful work being done with the Seeing AI app.
What does this mean for blind people and how can I help?
Feedback, feedback, feedback, feedback, I cannot stress that enough, because the blind community is small when compared to our sighted cohort, we need to speak up when we encounter issues relating to a product or service, next time something brakes, or you feel Microsoft have broken something within Windows, write a respectful email explaining that you’re blind, and use adaptive technology, and you’ll be surprised at how willing Microsoft is to assist and correct problems and concerns.
With people like Jeff Bishop, Microsoft Program Manager for Narrator, the outlook for people that are blind, and Windows 10 overall looks very good.
5 stars outstanding.
Narrator is better than ever, quick smooth installation, fast boot time, being able to use my braille display with narrator, system wide dictation, Cortana is even better than before, very responsive, even though Edge is a work in progress, Microsoft is moving in the right direction, the Microsoft disability answer desk is fantastic.
I’d love to be able to move by first letter navigation when uninstalling programs, as well as being able to copy chunks of text between my PCS and my mobile devices, I believe Microsoft is working on this already, and Windows insiders will test first before it goes live, most likely with the next version of Windows 10, known internally as Red Stone 4, due out in the first half of 2018.