Windows 10 accessibility

So, Windows 10 has arrived and with it a whole new level of access for people with disabilities… or has it?

With 14 million new users and counting, the new OS is already very popular, largely due to the option of a free upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users. But what is it like from an accessibility perspective?

Experience for screen reader users

My first encounter with accessibility on Windows 10 was, a bit surprising, and not in a good way. As an accessibility tester I was keen to try out some screen-readers and started with NVDA and Windows 10. Immediately I was notified that my screen reader wasn’t compatible. The Windows tray pop-up told me that NVDA was incompatible with Windows 10 and provided a link to the NVDA website.

I was a bit alarmed to read that there were a number of incompatibilities with NVDA and Windows 10 including:

  • Major problems with Window’s new browsing engine called Microsoft Edge (Edge is the default engine for Browsing, Cortana, Windows Store and PDFs –basically all the web and search stuff)
  • File Explorer is sluggish
  • Message lists in Outlook are extremely slow
  • NVDA cannot be run to complete the final stages of the upgrade

Having digested NVDA’s take on Windows 10 I wanted to find out if Freedom Scientific had more positive information for JAWS users. As it happens, they are quite a bit more upbeat about the compatibility of their software, but the issues that they are reporting are actually very similar. Including difficulties with the browser, email client, and PDF reader (all running on Microsoft Edge).

Dig inclusion recommendation

As a user of Windows 10 for only a very short time as a sighted tester, I can report that I haven’t had any real issue using Windows 10 for web testing. The rendering of content via a screen reader using Internet Explorer and Firefox is similar to what I’d expect on Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 using the same browsers.

But if you are a daily screen reader user and depend on screen readers to access all of the content on your computer then I’d be a lot more hesitant about the upgrade and would advise waiting until the first point release in the hope that Microsoft will address some of the issues.