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Windows 8: Designed for Accessibility


A spruced up look and an overall performance boost aren't the only improvements in Windows 8.

Microsoft's latest operating system also delivers when it comes to its accessibility and assistive technology features, namely the Narrator and Magnifier. Additionally, Microsoft's next generation of Windows 8 touch screen devices, such as tablets and laptops, are designed with accessibility in mind.


Narrator: More Responsive

The Narrator, a screen-reader utility, has been a longstanding feature in Microsoft Windows. It reads text, dialog boxes, and Windows controls aloud to people who are blind or have low vision.

In Windows 8, Narrator gets some major performance and feature enhancements. First and foremost, the Narrator can help you upgrade to Windows 8. If you're on a Windows 7 PC, Narrator will talk you through the process of downloading and setting up your new operating system.

Narrator has also been designed to be faster and more responsive to reading what's on your display. You can select a voice, change its speed, and create your own customized keyboard commands for Narrator as well.

Microsoft has developed special gestures for those who need to use the Narrator to navigate Windows 8 on a touchscreen tablet. You can tap the screen and the Narrator will tell you whatever text is under your finger.

If you want to know what a certain tile is on your Start Screen, you can drag your finger over it and the Narrator will tell you what it is without opening the tile. When you do want to activate a tile, you tap it with a second finger. 


Magnifier: Upgraded for Touch Screens

The Magnifier is a tool in Windows to make text and graphics larger for users with low vision. Magnifier has been around since Windows 98, but there are significant changes with the tool in Windows 8.

For one, it has been upgraded for use with touchscreen devices. When the Magnifier is on, a border will appear around the edges of your screen. You can drag your finger along the border to move the screen in that direction. To adjust the magnification, you tap the plus (+) and minus (-) icons.

Windows 8 Magnifier in action

If you're not using a touch screen computer, you can still use Magnifier with keyboard shortcuts (Windows key + and Windows key -) to adjust the magnification.


More Accessibility Resources

  • Discover accessibility resources through the Center for Accessible Technology, a nonprofit focused on access to computers and technology for people with disabilities.


Windows 8 Resources

  • Is Windows 8 right for your organization? Read about what you should consider before upgrading your organization's computers.  

*By Ginny Mies, Content Curator at TechSoup.