It’s no secret that Microsoft hasn’t kept pace with Apple and Google when it comes to multi-purpose operating systems. Both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are designed for touch screens on devices such as iPads, iPhones, Android-powered Smartphones and tablets. Microsoft is going further with its new operating system that will be called Windows 8. The company is taking this risk because they’ve lost pace with the world of tablet computing and Smartphone technologies. Part of Microsoft’s Windows 8 endeavor involves changing the user interface to make it more accessible for those with disabilities.
Two Operating Systems in One
The new operating system is essentially two operating systems in one. It’s a combination of the Metro interface, a tile-based one designed for running lightweight web-like apps on phones and tablets, and a traditional desktop operating system. Although the desktop component is more powerful, it is essentially an app that’s part of the home screen tiles within the Metro interface, and these tiles will eliminate the need for the start menu, one of the features that Microsoft is removing in Windows 8.
Addressing User Accessibility Issues
Currently, nearly 50 million American citizens have some type of disability. This is a phenomenon that increases as people age. By 2018, an estimated one-forth of the workforce will be 55 or older, driving the number of disabled individuals in need of assistive technologies up even more. One of the difficulties with smaller mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones is that they require more dexterity.
Changes to User Interface Automation
Just as handicap vans are designed to accommodate wheelchair entry, Microsoft intends to straddle the mobile-desktop divide by incorporating assistive technologies that are optimized for touch screen devices and built for easier developer integration into traditional PCs. The new Windows 8 OS will have specific changes that focus on underlying assistive technologies to help users with vision impairments.
Three Ways to Boost Accessibility
Drawing on past Assistive Technologies that included a narrator that is designed to be a screen reader for people with visual impairments, a magnifier that is designed to increase screen size as an accommodation for people with low vision, and speech recognition to help people with mobility issues, all of these features are being improved as Microsoft makes changes in response to previous user feedback.
By redesigning the narrator, the improved performance and read out speeds should eliminate one of the biggest frustrations that people with vision impairments face by not being able to control the rate at which they access content. People all over the world will benefit from the addition of languages to support many more countries and user preferences. Perhaps the greatest improvement will be the ability to install programs or set up or configure the PC using the navigator.
An operating system that works with mobile devices and traditional PCs, which can be installed on multiple computers, and which accommodates the needs of people with disabilities may propel Microsoft to the top as an innovator in software design once again. The ability to have one operating system to synchronize multiple devices will be a huge innovation.