Windows 11 accessibility features you need to know about

Windows 11 brings some big updates to Microsoft’s storied operating system visually, but it’s also made big strides in accessibility. Live Captions, updates to Narrator, and even full voice access could make Windows 11 the most accessible OS Microsoft has ever released.

Whether you need accessibility features to navigate Windows 11 or just want to get around a little easier, we’ve tried a bunch of features to give you our pick. If you want to browse the whole list, you can find it just the Arrangements app in Windows 11 and select the Accessibility tab.

Live titles

Live caption enabled on Windows 11.

Similar to what you might have on recent Android and iOS phones, Windows 11 brings the highly sought-after Live Captions feature. The OS Project Live Captions not only for audio and video played on your computer, but even your own speech when you speak directly through a microphone. Live Subtitles also works without an internet connection, so you can use the feature anytime you want.

Screenshot of Live Captions on Windows 11.

You can change the position of the subtitle to the top or bottom of the screen, or make it a floating window. We found a delay of a quarter of a second between real time and the projected text. Accuracy is solid for the most part, barring any hum or quality issues from the audio source. Also, we’re not 100% sure if this is a feature or a bug, but during fullscreen videos, the subtitles automatically jump to a floating window instead of your default location.

There is even an option to filter out profanity. Due to the resource-intensive nature of live, on-the-fly subtitling, Microsoft recommends freeing up some RAM by closing unused applications, but we didn’t notice any subtitling performance hiccups with 30 Chrome tabs and Adobe Photoshop running on a midrange laptop.


Man eye control windows 11.

While Narrator itself is nothing new, the Windows 11 iteration brings quality-of-life improvements such as more natural-looking narrator voice packs. Like Edge’s Read aloud function, the Narrator tool in the OS now produces realistic speech with support for USB-connected Braille displays.

Launching Narrator at any time will automatically activate a screen reader, which you can use to explore and navigate almost every aspect of the Windows UI and menus. To gain more control over how you want Narrator to work, you can dig deeper into its settings (Windows key + Ctrl + N) to install different human voices, define how much Narrator speaks as you type, and so on.

If the default language on your computer is set to US English, there will be three installable voices to choose from (Aria, Jenny, and Guy). Once you have installed voice, you can use it free of the internet. The voices certainly sound more natural than before, but they still lack the realism and fluidity of, say, Cortana, let alone Google’s efforts.

Voice access

Touch Keyboard Windows 11 voice access feature.

Voice access (and by extension, voice typing) may still be in preview status, but it’s nonetheless stable and feature-rich in Windows 11. It represents the idea that with AI and speech algorithms, making email a controlling, navigating or dictating directly through voice can be a very effective way to interact with your computer. You can launch and close applications, select and click items, navigate text, and activate keyboard keys—all hands-free.

One caveat to using Voice access is the abundant commands used to control the computer. Windows 11 has a training tool to get you up and running with the basics, but if your situation requires full voice control of your PC, you’ll need to invest some time in learning the commands. It’s great that Windows can assign numbers to all interactive elements for elements on the screen, like color palettes or radio buttons, so you can “click” on the one you want.

Another thing to note is that while third-party apps are supported with voice access, it’s not as well-baked as when using Microsoft products. Using and navigating Edge seems more integrated than with other browsers, for example. We hope that future updates will provide more robust application support.

As a concurrent function of voice access, voice typing works well, although it occasionally lags for a split second before catching up. Punctuation can also be captured automatically, although we found that it was only accurate about 80% of the time.

Focus/Do not interfere

Screenshot of Focus Sessions in Windows 11.

Focus has finally transitioned from being just part of the Clock app to being its own feature in Windows 11 now called Focus Sessions. During a Focus Session, Windows 11 mutes system-wide notifications or minimizes UI complexity and clutter. Microsoft says that Focus Sessions are ideal for those with neurological disorders, but also work great for clearing some clutter from your desktop.

Automatically starting a Focus Session enables Do Not Disturb mode. By default, Windows blocks all incoming notifications and prevents any app that opens or is pinned to the taskbar from flashing, but you can toggle these. We wish customization of the app notifications allowed was available directly on the Focus screen; now, you have to go to System > Notifications > Set priority notifications.

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