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Windows 10 creators update – benefits & issues for blind & low vision users

The Windows 10 Creators update is now rolling out to computers and tablets.  While many blind and vision impaired users have welcomed the updates as discussed in my March post titled Microsoft’s improvements for blind and low vision users in the Windows 10 insider preview, there is also an issue relating to a change in the keyboard shortcut that starts the Narrator screen reader.

While the Creators update has lots of great features, its important to first deal with the elephant in the room – the inability to start Narrator after the Creators update has been installed. If you are used to using the ‘Windows key + Enter’ to toggle Narrator on and off, you’ll be surprised to discover that after the Creators update is installed, this keyboard combination no longer works.  Instead, you will now need to use the ‘Windows key + CTRL + Enter’. This change is not obvious and it’s surprisingly difficult to find out about it, even in Narrator’s help options, so it’s worth making a note of this new default keyboard command.

While some of the changes in the Creators update can be tricky, one of the best new features is the addition of Cortana and improved Narrator support when setting Windows 10 up for the first time. If you purchase a new computer with the Creators update installed, or reset your current computer after updating, you’ll be greeted with a series of setup screens whereby Cortana talks you through your options and also prompts you to turn on Narrator if you wish. I tried this myself and found the process to be very helpful as a person who is vision impaired, and I suspect it’ll be helpful for everyone. The ability to verbally reply to some of Cortana’s questions and have clear instructions when information is to be typed in made the whole process much easier.

As mentioned previously, other aspects of Windows 10 have been improved for accessibility with Braille support now added and a number of tweaks to Narrator.  I’ve also noticed significant improvements in how screen readers interact with Microsoft Edge. While launching Edge when using Narrator for the first time still asks if you want to switch the default on Internet Explorer, it’s encouraging to see the support for assistive technologies improving for the default web browser. While not strictly accessibility-related, the addition of 3D Paint is fun too.

Overall the update adds some useful accessibility features, particularly for people who are blind or vision impaired but just watch out for that change to the Narrator keyboard shortcut. Additional information on the Windows 10 Creators Update can be found at the Microsoft website.

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