At TechAbility we spend lots of time training people in how to use the in-built accessibility settings on devices. In Windows 10 there are some great settings which really make a difference, but sometimes they can be tricky to find. Often a setting is ‘buried’ and requires knowledge of how to get to the setting, before it can even be changed. If people can’t find a setting quickly, or have to learn a process to find it, there’s already a barrier to it being used.
I was really encouraged to see the publicity for Windows 11 talking about the end of the Ease of Access Centre and the move to an Accessibility menu under Settings. My hope is that this will centralise all the accessibility tools and lead to a more straightforward approach. I downloaded a preview build to try it for myself and for this post I’m just focussing on how the tools are accessed rather than any changes to the tools themselves (hence the title: Accessibility of accessibility).
The settings menu has changed and as promised, Accessibility has its own section containing links to tools such as Text size, Mouse, pointer and touch, Magnifier and Keyboard. This is really encouraging and will mean people can go to a single point by using the Win + U shortcut.
Importantly all the accessibility settings are listed here. The icons have been carried over from Windows 7 and give an additional cue to each element. One negative throughout the whole settings is the light grey text (beloved of so many web designers) which makes the descriptions hard to read. Also the scrollbar on the right is also very thin. Hopefully, these will be changed in the final release.
Looking through various accessibility settings I was very pleased to see everything appeared to be integrated, toggle buttons to turn features on and off and settings changes e.g. timings adjusted in situ.
This is really encouraging to see and gives an experience much more akin to iOS, where the accessibility settings have been consolidated for some time.
I did manage to find a buried, pop-up window in the mouse settings. The settings for mouse accessibility are integrated – pointer speed, size and colour – but I always show people how to adjust Double-click speed and activate Click-lock and Snap-to. Getting to these settings involves a pop-up window (shown in the image below) which I really hope is just part of the preview and will be fixed in the final build.
The Settings search feature is good, though does not seem to be different from Windows 7. Importantly after you use the keyboard shortcut Win + U to get to Accessibility the focus is in the search box. This ties in well with the accessibility of accessibility as the process to get to a setting can now be as straightforward as: Press Win + U, then type what you are looking for.
This new integrated menu will hopefully make a difference for both the users of accessibility tools and the people who support them.
Note: Any negatives here have been fed back to Microsoft using the Feedback Hub you can Up Vote the mouse issue to help bring to Microsoft’s attention. If you want to feedback to Microsoft press Win + F when on a Windows machine.
Window 11 will be released in late 2021.
Fil McIntyre, TechAbility Manager and Assistive Technology Lead