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.
The built-in accessibility features have been updated to work with touchscreen devices, including the first major update to the Narrator screen reader since the release of Windows 2000 twelve years ago. In addition, some new features have been added to make it easier for a user to have accessibility features start as soon as the computer is switched on.
The following assistive features have been updated or introduced:
- Narrator: improved performance, extra language support, new voices, better application support and touch-enabled
- Magnifier: support for high contrast colour schemes and a new interface for touchscreen devices
- Sign-in settings: allows the user to select which built-in accessibility features launch as the computer starts up
- Accessible apps: the new Windows Store 8 allows the user to search only for apps which the developer has certified as accessible. There are also features that can help developers create accessible applications.
Differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT
While the built-in accessibility features have been significantly improved, consumers should be aware that there are two variants of the new Windows operating system that were launched today: Windows 8 and Windows RT.
Windows 8 is designed as an upgrade to Windows 7, featuring access to both new touch-based and traditional applications, while Windows RT is only available on tablet computers.
While the built-in accessibility features in Windows 8 and Windows RT are essentially the same, Windows RT can only use applications from the Windows Store, which works in a similar way to other app stores such as Apple’s app store and Google Play. As a result, existing assistive technologies designed for Windows XP, Vista or 7 cannot be installed on Windows RT.
Instructions for how to enable accessibility features in Windows 8 are available in our Digital Technology section.
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