Judy Dixon In this piece, I will briefly review the major new features in Windows 11 that will affect screen reader users. Many of the changes from Windows 10 to 11 are visual, and will have little to no impact on those who rely on screen readers. The new interface is meant to be softer, friendlier, and more discoverable. The changes such as the start menu being in the middle of the taskbar will not even be discernible to those who do not see the screen. There are, however, a few differences that will be noticeable, but the overall experience of using Windows 11 is very similar to Windows 10 and should not present any difficulties.

Upgrading to Windows 11

After more than six years since the release of Windows 10, on October 5, 2021, Microsoft released Windows 11 to the public. Not everybody is being offered the free update immediately. Microsoft is rolling it out over a period of months. But if you just can't wait, you can download and install it whenever you like.

There are several prerequisites that a computer must meet to be eligible for Windows 11. Details on these are listed at Windows 11 System Requirements.

If you would like to know if your computer is eligible for Windows 11, Microsoft recommends installing the accessible PC Health Check app. It can be downloaded from this same system requirements page.

New computers are now shipping with Windows 11. If your first encounter with Windows 11 is on a new computer, as you boot the computer, Windows 11 will tell you that you can launch Narrator to go through Setup. I recommend that if you are not a regular Narrator user and you choose to do this, you brush up on your Narrator keyboard shortcuts. You can get a Complete guide to Narratorfrom the Microsoft website.

New Keyboard Shortcuts in Windows 11

There are a few new keyboard shortcuts in Windows 11.

The Action Center has been split into two parts, Quick Settings and Notifications Center:

Windows key + A opens Quick Settings. Here you can manage wi-fi, Bluetooth, and audio, edit the Quick Settings menu and open the All Settings interface.

Windows key + N opens the Notification Center. The Notification Center includes all your notifications and a full-month calendar view.

Windows key + C opens Chats. Microsoft Teams is now built into Windows and this keystroke opens the Chat feature.

Windows key + W opens the Widgets interface. Widgets is a new feature similar to "news and interests" for Windows 10. By default, it has widgets for weather, news, sports, and so forth. You can add and delete items as you wish.

Windows key + Z opens the Snap layouts menu. Snap layouts is a way to visually position the windows on your screen.

Voice Typing

Voice Typing is the dictation feature built into Windows 11. Actually, Windows 10 had a rudimentary dictation feature but it has been significantly enhanced in Windows 11, and is now a very smooth and seamless experience that is available any time you can enter text from the keyboard.

Simply press the Windows key + h and Voice Typing will be activated. Even if you are running a screen reader such as JAWS, the words are not spoken as they are entered so the additional speech does not interfere with the dictation. If you are using a braille display, the words being dictated are scrolled onto the display as you speak them so you can follow along as the words are written. You will need an Internet connection for Voice Typing to work. Pressing any key on the keyboard will turn Voice Typing off.

Autopunctuation which is off by default can punctuate your dictation as you speak it. To turn on autopunctuation, while Voice Typing is active, press alt + Windows + h. Shift-tab once to reach Settings and press Enter. Tab to Autopunctuation, and press the spacebar to turn it on. As of this writing, the alt + Windows + H hotkey does not bring up this dialog in JAWS, but if you unload JAWS and launch Narrator with Control + Windows + Enter, you will be able to do it. Once turned on, autopunctuation stays on until you turn it off.

A Few Small Changes Worth Noting

Ease of Access has been renamed Accessibility.

There is a new Sound Scheme. The sounds are softer, and much more subtle than the sounds in Windows 10. Light mode has one set of sounds while dark mode has a separate set of sounds.

Focus Assist now includes the opportunity to set a Focus Session as part of the Clock app to set an amount of time to limit notifications, include scheduled breaks, and associate specific tasks.

New Features on the Horizon

Additional features have been rolled out to the Windows Insiders. These are the beta testers and developers who test new features. Two new features of particular interest are the ability of Windows 11 to run Android apps, and Voice Access, which will allow users to control a PC by talking to it.


In summary, Windows 11 is a smooth experience for screen reader users with a few nuggets worth getting excited about. For a good set of lessons describing the new features and changes in Windows 11 with JAWS, see Windows 11 Training - dSurf.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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Judy Dixon
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AccessWorld News