Internet Explorer 11 Adds Better Accessibility Features For The Blind

IT Management

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The blind and visually impaired are criminally overlooked as technology progresses. There's been a few improvements to how computers behave to help those with visual impairments, but you could easily argue that not enough is being done to improve accessibility. Microsoft must feel the same way as it's adding a number of improvements to its latest browser to address these issues.

Microsoft announced today that Internet Explorer 11 will ship with new accessibility features for the blind and visually impaired. Most of these new features take advantage of Windows Narrator to alert visually impaired users of when mistakes are made, or that they're on the right track when typing in a foreign language.

First up, IE11 will now screen readers to alert users to the following:

  • Auto-correct: Internet Explorer auto-corrects misspelled words. For example, if a user types “teh” in English, it will be corrected to “the.” IE11 adds a new notification so screen readers can inform users that auto-correct is happening.
  • Backspace: As a user types, the screen reader announces each keystroke. However, simply hearing ‘backspace’ announced is not particularly helpful because it is hard to know what is being deleted. IE11 notifies the screen reader which letter was deleted, so it can be announced.
  • Formatting: When reading or writing an email or other Web content, users need to understand the formatting of the message, not just the raw text. IE11 provides more detailed notifications to screen readers, so users can better understand the content they are reading or editing. For example, Microsoft Narrator says “bold” and “end bold” to let the user know that a section of text was emphasized with bold styling. You can try it out for yourself in Microsoft Narrator by enabling Verbose Mode using Caps Lock + A.
  • You can see this in action below:

    The other big change are for those users typing in an East Asian language on an English keyboard. Here's how it works:

    Input Method Editors (IMEs) are used to type East Asian languages using a typical English keyboard. For example, using the Japanese IME, a user can type a Japanese character phonetically (“su”), and the IME will display a list of candidates for the corresponding Japanese character (す). With IE11, screen readers can now read the candidate characters to the user.

    You can see this in action below:

    All the above improvements will be available in Internet Explorer 11, which launches with Windows 8.1 on October 17.

    [Image: internetexplorer/YouTube]