Windows 11 2022 Update is Microsoft’s most affordable operating system

The Windows 11 2022 Update is now available for download with various new features that we covered in our dedicated review. In addition to new features targeted at the general public, Microsoft’s latest operating system aims to make the technology more accessible to users with disabilities.

The first feature update for Windows 11 contains four new tools designed for and for people with disabilities: more natural voices for announcer, focus sessions, system-wide live captioning, and voice access.

Natural voices for the narrator

The Windows 11 2022 update includes three new natural-sounding voices for built-in Narrator (currently only available in English). These voices will make using Narrator a “delightful experience” for those who rely on screen reader technology.

Settings app showing natural voices in Narrator for Windows 11

As Jeff Bishop, Narrator’s product manager who has been blind since birth, explained, Microsoft engineers spent a lot of time improving the response and other characteristics of the voices based on “tons of feedback” from users around the world. Microsoft says the new voices use a “state-of-the-art text-to-speech engine” that accurately reflects natural speech.

Focus sessions

Focus sessions in Windows 11 2022 Update will help people who find it difficult to focus on one task. Apart from the Do Not Disturb mode, it calms down the operating system, turns off flashing on the taskbar, and removes notification icons. Users can customize the duration of each session and launch them from a pop-up calendar window or the Clock app. After the session ends, Windows 11 presents the user with a summary of notifications.

Clock app in Windows 11 with Focus Sessions

Here’s what Alexis Kane, Focus Sessions product manager and person with ADHD, has to say about this accessibility feature:

The way my computer behaves throughout the day affects my mood, productivity, and energy levels. This became even more evident during virtual work, when I was not looking up from the computer …

I’m not alone in these feelings, and so we knew we had to do something to calm the PC down and reduce user distractions. We started thinking very broadly about how we could create a more relaxed environment on PC, and through many design iterations and customer feedback, we created Focus and Do Not Disturb sessions.

Voice Access

In addition to hiring people with disabilities to improve accessibility in Windows 11, Microsoft is hosting a mobility advisory board that includes people with mobility disabilities and their support network. Their feedback helped Microsoft understand that the existing voice commands in Windows 11 needed more improvements. The Voice Access feature is a collaboration between Microsoft and its Mobility Advisory Board.

Example of Windows displaying the grid for Voice Access on Windows 11 22H2

Voice Access places a grid on the screen with a number in each section. Users can tell Windows which section to select and where to click by emulating standard input with a keyboard and mouse. When you first start Windows 11, it also explains how to use this feature with an interactive guide. It can even give real-time feedback on what it heard and show which word was misrecognised.

System-wide live captioning

Finally, Windows 11 2022 Update introduces a brand new live subtitle system. It can transcribe spoken content from any system-wide source, including microphones, allowing customers to follow in-person conversations or online meetings. In addition, it does not require an active Internet connection, as the operating system processes the data locally.

Live Captions feature transcribes YouTube videos in Windows 11.

As we mentioned in our Windows 11 2022 Update review, you can’t have too many accessibility features and improvements. Microsoft will continue to improve in this area, striving to make modern technologies accessible and enjoyable for everyone. If you rely on a particular accessibility feature and think it needs some improvement, please share your thoughts with Microsoft by pressing Win + F . The company states that your feedback and input “has been critical in helping teams and products continue to evolve in the right direction.”

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