Making the web more accessible with Edge


Enabling technology access for people with different abilities and creating a more inclusive web is a part of our mission to empower everyone on the planet. While the interface and design of web browsers has improved considerably over the years, accessibility is the key to wider inclusion.

Individuals with learning difficulties, for example, struggle to read and benefit from the vast knowledge resources available online. Improving accessibility is thus a crucial step in empowering millions of people with varying abilities using technology. At Microsoft, we’ve been working to expand and augment the accessibility of our software and devices with innovative new features.

Bolstering accessibility for wider web access

Accessibility features in Microsoft Edge are aimed at helping people with learning difficulties or physical challenges tap into the power of the web with ease.

Dyslexia, for example is a problem that impedes the use of online platforms. It is one of the most common learning disabilities on the planet. Depending on the type, orthographic system, and the degree of the learning disability, nearly 10% of the world’s population is affected by it. That means nearly 700 million children and adults run the risk of lifelong exclusion and difficulties in learning.

Teachers in classrooms often struggle with the diverse needs of children. They can lose a lot of teaching time trying to customize lessons for kids with varying learning disabilities. With one in five children suffering from dyslexia, a large number of students are left behind as their needs are unmet with traditional learning tools.

According to Dyslexia International, 90% of students with dyslexia can be taught in regular classrooms as long as the learning tools are available and the systems are inclusive.

Accessibility features in the Microsoft products ecosystem are designed for this purpose. These features make learning experiences for people with varying abilities more inclusive and nurturing. They help improve decoding, sustain attention, reduce errors, improve word recognition, and comprehension.

For example, the text in Microsoft Edge can be spaced and highlighted as required. The background can be changed to a darker shade to help reduce eye strain and the size and type of font can be shifted to accommodate users with near or far-sightedness. For people who struggle to read text at certain distances, these features help reduce reading errors by 50%. Spacing words out, for example, can help readers make 50% fewer errors than when reading text without spacing[1].

The highlight and read-aloud functions help users comprehend every word and read through text faster. Research suggests that dyslexia is an issue with phonology (comprehending the sounds of words) which is why immersive reading features that highlight and read out words in a sentence are very useful. Simultaneous highlighting and voicing text is proven to improve decoding and sustain attention[2]. Other innovative features can help people with vision difficulties and eye sensitivity.

Designing for Accessibility

Microsoft Edge completes our transition to the newer UI Automation (UIA) API from the older Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) API. Alongside implementing the Document Object Model (DOM), the entire browser interface has been rewritten to make it more accessible than ever.

Edge is compatible with all major web standards, including Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA), HTML, and CSS3. EdgeHTML also forms the basis for all Universal Windows Apps on the Windows 10 platform. Accessibility features are pervasive since the structure is common to every app on the platform.

Here’s how Edge translates web content into presentable formats on the platform:

To ensure Edge is easy to design for and remains accessible to everyone, the team has worked closely with the administrators of HTML5Accessibility.   EdgeHTML 14 scores considerably high on this site, which is a vital resource for web developers looking to create inclusive apps for users.

Recently added features allow developers to map to the accessibility API, keyboard accessibility, and the accessibility of error states.

EdgeHTML 15 will have added support for UI Automation TextPattern and improved support for common web patterns such as the HTML lang attribute.

Developers can also use Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 to ensure their apps and websites conform to the highest degree of accessibility standards. With the tools and resources built into Edge, developers can now create apps that are easy for everyone to read, view, edit, and interact with.

Final thoughts

With enhanced accessibility features Edge serves as a window for digital inclusion. At Microsoft, we’re committed to make incremental improvements to Edge to make the Internet more accessible for everyone. These small steps have brought us much closer to empowering everyone, everywhere through the power of technology.

 

[1] Marco Zorzi, et al., Extra-large letter spacing improves reading in dyslexia

[2] Floyd & Judge, The Efficacy of Assistive Technology on Reading Comprehension for Postsecondary Students with Learning Disabilities, 2012

 

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