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How Inclusion Drives Innovation in Windows 11 – Microsoft News Center Brasil & More Breaking News

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By Carolina Hernandez, Windows Accessibility Leader

Earlier this year, we announced four amazing Windows 11 features that were designed for and with disabled people: system-wide live captions, Focus sessions, voice access and more natural voices for Narrator. These resources will be available starting today, and we want to pull back the curtain and share a little more about how the culture of inclusion on the Windows engineering team has helped drive the development of more inclusive and enjoyable experiences for everyone. This culture has three main ingredients: people, processes and ambition.

Our team composition: as diverse as the communities we aim to empower

On the Windows Accessibility team, we embrace the disability motto, “nothing about us without us,” to create products that empower each of us, and ideally the creators are as diverse as their audiences. When we created the team that would develop accessibility experiences for Windows 11, we intentionally hired people with disabilities to drive these investments so that their experiences could help inform and guide the design of the solutions. Let’s meet some of the product creators behind the new Narrator and Focus improvements in Windows 11: Jeff Bishop and Alexis Kane.

Football Highlights

Jeff Bishop is the product manager responsible for Narrator, the screen reader built into Windows. Jeff has been blind since birth and has dedicated his career to creating experiences that empower blind people. And over the past few years, Jeff has paved the way to making Narrator easier and more enjoyable to use. He explains:

As a screen reader user, I really understood the need for some changes to the Narrator voice. Hearing that voice all day while you work, read an article or a book, or just surf the internet on the couch – it has to be a pleasant experience. To develop the new natural sounding voices for the Narrator – “Aria”, “Guy” and “Jenny” – we had to figure out what made a “great” voice for a screen reader user. I spent considerable time with our engineering team to improve the responsiveness and other characteristics of the voices. We tested and gathered a lot of feedback to ensure they met my needs as a user and the needs of all screen reader users. In all the world.

Based on his own lived experience and feedback from the community, Jeff helped bring new, natural-sounding voices to Narrator. These new voices use state-of-the-art text-to-speech that mirror much more in natural speech, making everything from surfing the Internet to reading and creating documents more enjoyable to users listening to their screens rather than looking at them.

installing neural voices

Alexis Kane is the product manager behind Focus Sessions, a new experience in Windows 11 that uses proven techniques to build healthy digital habits and get more done. Alexis has ADHD and felt how being distracted by notifications affected her productivity. Alexis describes her experience like this:

The way my computer behaves in a day influences my mood, my productivity, and my energy levels. This became increasingly apparent with virtual work, when I had no break from my computer. The number of notifications received increased significantly, as did my anxiety levels. When I see a notification, I immediately start thinking about the subject of the message, how I will respond, how others will respond, and what I should respond to. immediately. I also didn’t think I could turn off notifications, because then I’d be distracted all day thinking about what I was missing.

I’m not alone in this feeling, which is why we knew we needed to do something to silence the PC and reduce distractions for users. We started thinking very broadly about how we could create a calmer environment on PC, and through many design iterations and customer feedback, we created the Focus and Do Not Disturb sessions.

With Focus and Do Not Disturb sessions, users have a simple way to silence Windows and focus on the work they need to do. When you start a new focus session, Windows turns on Do Not Disturb, which silences notifications, turns off taskbar notifications, and apps stop flashing on the taskbar. Focus is also integrated with the Clock app, which triggers a timer to help you stay focused and remember to take breaks, which has been proven to improve productivity.

Before Focus Blog

The team process: based on partnerships with the communities we aim to serve

Clearly, with a limited number of people on the team, the ideal of fully representing the diversity of our user base will always remain out of reach – which is why partnerships and engagement are also such an important part of our team. process. In fact, partnerships are key to understanding, developing and validating the capabilities we build: through conversations with our customers, we create a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities we have to create more inclusive experiences.

One of these partnerships, with our Mobility Advisory Board, was instrumental in developing the new Windows 11 voice access experience, now in preview. The mobility advisory board is made up of people with reduced mobility and their support network: for example, occupational therapists or parents of children with reduced mobility. Through conversations with Mobility Advisory Board members, we found that our existing voice command solutions were not as efficient as our users needed them to be. So we started a series of conversations with the board, which helped us envision and co-create a new experience – one that allows people with limited mobility (and anyone else) to control their PC and create content in any app using their voice.

One feature of the new voice access experience that came directly from this collaboration was the interactive voice access guide and the help experience. Board members, especially occupational therapists, emphasized the importance of helping users learn to use a new technology when it is first made available. Based on this feedback, we’ve ensured that the first time you start voice access, you’re presented with an interactive guide to help you learn how to complete common tasks using your voice. And during use, it is also always possible to get a complete list of commands, asking the question “what can I say?” Voice access even gives you real-time feedback on what you’ve heard so you know which word wasn’t recognized correctly when he gets it wrong. We are very grateful for the time and feedback that the mobility council has given us on voice access, and it will be a pleasure to continue our journey together.

VA Interactive guide comp 1 of 41920

The team’s ambition: to create enjoyable experiences for each of us

The personal interest our team takes in the quality of the experiences we create, combined with the depth of our connection to the communities we serve, has always driven us to have high ambitions. We want to envision and create experiences that go beyond “access” to create enjoyable experiences that inspire and empower each of us to do our best on Windows. And sometimes fulfilling that ambition means rethinking established solutions – as we did when developing the new system-wide live captioning experience.

Live captions have been around in many apps on Windows for some time – and, working with deaf and hard of hearing employees and consultants, we’ve found that captions contained within an app can lead to inefficiencies during collaboration and multitasking: when you close or minimize the app, subtitles disappear. So, working together with people who are deaf and hard of hearing, the team rethought live captioning as a system-wide experience.

Now live captions in Windows 11 go beyond the app. Captions are displayed at the top of the screen by default, just below the camera on most systems, making it easy to keep up with online meetings while still looking like you’re engaged. But the location is under your control: live subtitles can be moved to the bottom of the screen or to a floating window, so you can multitask, not lose subtitles, and most importantly, not block any important content .

And while this solution solved one of the main problems we set out to solve, our ambition to provide enjoyable experiences led us to look even further – and we saw an opportunity to solve a real-world problem: making conversations face-to-face accessible. With microphone audio capture, Windows 11 live captions can also transcribe face-to-face conversations. And since the subtitles are produced locally on the machine itself, these conversations – as well as all their subtitled content – ​​remain inside the room. This is a revolutionary feature for a whole variety of scenarios – meetings where everyone is wearing masks that block lip-reading, improvised conversations between deaf and hearing people for which there is no readily available sign interpreter, and something of personal relevance to me, help non-native speakers of the language keep up with audio content and conversations online and offline.

Live captions Blog

Join us on the journey: provide your feedback

Accessibility and inclusion in Windows 11, as elsewhere, is an ongoing journey – and we are committed to pursuing it through our products, our culture, and our partnerships with you, the community. Your feedback and input have been instrumental in helping our teams and products continue to evolve in the right direction. And we know we still have more to do, and we’re going to need your help. So keep giving your feedback. You can start by getting Windows 11 today – and then tell us what you think, to help create better experiences for each of us. Just press Windows logo key + F to launch the feedback hub and share your opinion.

Finally, if you are a customer with a disability and need technical assistance for Windows or any other Microsoft product, please contact Answer Desk Accessibility by phone, chat or ASL (via videophone). Contact! We are always happy to help.

Tags: Accessibility, Windows 11

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