By Shriram Parthasarathy, Lead – Social Media Marketing, Microsoft India
What’s common between Freddie Mercury’s vocal cords and the rays of the sun? A ‘range’ that challenges one’s ability to differentiate one song from the other and visualize things differently. And when we superimpose that thought closer to ourselves, we realize that every ability and disability is a shifting spectrum. Scaling further, when we apply it to one’s way of interacting with digital content, accessing information, and above all, just navigating through one’s routine, we find that every interaction is unique, just as every live performance of Queen.
Technology has a unique role to play in today’s times. It democratizes access to information at scale, by being relevant to every single user in the way he or she chooses to interface. It’s publicly stated that there are over a billion people with disabilities or people with different ways of interacting with content and managing their daily routine. Hence, it’s fair to say that technology is built to cater to a spectrum of users and not just for a single type of user. Over the years, we’ve been working towards making Windows + U more compatible, and thereby advance in making ‘Windows for You’.
Narrator – Not a Sci-Fi character
Don’t let the voice take you off-guard. At the end of the day, it’s just reading your computer screen. Narrator is a screen reader that helps someone who’s completely blind or someone who prefers a voice-guided interface in one’s computing needs. It reads out the different controls, documents and helps spin up a web of information on the internet. One can adjust the speech, pitch, and verbosity, just to make sure the voice doesn’t sound alien as the day drifts on.
Press the Windows logo key + U = Ease of access Center > Narrator
Magnify – It only gets better
There’s no secret that a fine print can’t keep. For individuals who possess low vision on either of their eyes and prefer to read documents with a large font or extend that to their entire computing experience, one can leverage Windows Magnifier and customize the screen and when it should come on.
Press the Windows logo key + U = Ease of Access Center > Magnifier
Sticky Keys – Wizardry unlocked since 1994
As old as Windows 95, more than 25 years running, Sticky Keys is a Windows feature that helps people with physical disabilities. It allows a user to type keystrokes like ‘Alt+Control+Delete’ one key at a time and avoid stressing about the speed of enabling a command.
Press the Windows logo key + U = Ease of Access Center > Keyboard > Sticky Keys
Closed captioning – Every spoken word, understood by reading
People with hearing impairment can consume video and multimedia content optimally when there are closed captions. When the videos are played on a computer, one can customize the style, background, effects, size, the entire window, to make sure that the subtitles are properly visible to one’s preference.
Press the Windows logo key + U = Ease of Access Center > Closed Captions
Speak and explore
One can leverage voice-enabled computing options for different purposes, ranging from dictating emails, to telling Cortana to send an email or search for some information on the internet: it’s adding a new dimension to the human-computer interface.
Press the Windows logo key + U = Ease of Access Center > Speech
As humans, we’ve come a long way from not having a language to talk, to creating a multitude of languages and scripts, to conversing one to one, conversing in a cohort and conversing with machines in the way machines understand. And now, we’re in an age where we’re making machines understand the human way of routine conversations. It’s a journey of enhancing one’s capability to express, communicate, and participate in daily conversations. Technology levels the playing field by democratizing the experience for people with disabilities.
Shriram Parthasarathy leads social media marketing at Microsoft India and also heads the Mumbai chapter of the DisAbilities Employee Resource Group at Microsoft. He is also the recipient of the NCPEDP Mindtree Hellen Keller Award for 2019 for being a role model for persons with disabilities.