Microsoft Narrator: Have Your Surface Read to You

surface Narrator
How to use Narrator to make the Surface read to you:

I recently broke my foot and have been in a boot hobbling around for about nine weeks now. This has made me acutely aware of how difficult it is to get around as a person with a disability.

I can’t tell you how hard it is to live in the world of the “average”, if you have a special need. I found that even opening heavy doors is difficulty with limited mobility.

This got me thinking about other types of disabilities and how the Surface tablets can be used to help folks that have them.

In a previous post Tim talked about Surface’s hand writing capabilities, which are definitely a big help for folks that have trouble typing. Today, however, I want to focus on having your Surface read to you.

Here is the good news: whether you’re a person that is blind, has limited vision, or you simply want the Surface to read news to you while you do something else, the Microsoft Narrator allows the Surface tablets to do just that.

The Narrator is a screen reader that reads text displayed on your Surface screen aloud. It will also describe what else is on the page, like error messages, buttons, and menus.

Unfortunately, it is not designed to read content in every possible application or situation so, sometimes it just won’t work with certain apps or it will have strange quirks.

So, here is how you get your Surface to read to you:

1. Turn on the Narrator

You can do this in one of two ways on your Surface:

  • Hold down the Windows key and the Volume Up key at the same time.
    By the way, if you do this accidentally, to turn the Narrator OFF, you would do the same thing as to turn it on (Windows Key + Volume Up).
  • Go to Settings \ Change PC Settings \ Ease of Access and turn on the Narrator from there.

I prefer the latter because it gives you the opportunity to set the Narrator settings the way you like.

2. Navigate to any website, document, or perform any number of commands and the Narrator will call out what you’re doing. I find that it works best if using a Surface keyboard or external mouse. You will need to reference Microsoft’s site to familiarize yourself with common shortcuts to get the Narrator to do what you want.

Note about reading Kindle books: Technically the Kindle app does work with the Narrator. However, Amazon recommends that you install the special PC Kindle app that works best with Accessibility options. Unfortunately, this version of the app is not available in Windows Apps Store yet. So, although you can have the Narrator read your books on Surface RT and Surface 2, it is a bit buggy and somewhat quirky.

I hope that in the future, more software developers consider writing their applications with Narrator support because it truly is a great option for folks with vision impairment.

Check out our post on New Surface Accessories!

Joanna –

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