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Windows ‘Vista’ Offers Enhanced Accessibility.

The new version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system, ‘Vista’, offers enhanced access features including an improved screen magnifier, a basic screen reader and the capability to allow users to customise settings according to their needs.

The ‘Ease of access center,’ contains a set of ‘recommended settings,’ pages whose function it is to assess the level of the user’s disability and make appropriate changes Users are asked to tick boxes next to statements such as: ‘I am blind,’ ‘Lighting conditions make it difficult to see a monitor’ or ‘Images and text on a TV are hard to see’ in short questionnaires grouped by impairment.

The ‘center’ is available from the desktop, in a move to make access features easier to discover, Director of the Accessible Technology Group, Rob Sinclair told E-Access Bulletin at a Vista accessibility briefing in Brussels last week.

User feedback revealed many users simply did not know access features existed in the previous version of the operating system. The software giant has also shed the wheelchair logo that was previously used to open accessibility features available in the ‘control panel’ menu of its predecessor Windows XP.

According to Sinclair, not everybody identified themselves with the symbol; particularly those with a temporary disability. Improvements have also been made to the system’s screen magnifier which now enlarges on-screen content by up to 16 times; and to Narrator, a basic screen reader with a new natural-sounding speech engine called Anna.

The team aims to further improve these features, said Sinclair. The Vista operating system was launched to businesses last week and released on the retail market at the end of January 2007.


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