Carolina Hernandez, who leads accessibility for Windows and recently wrote about how inclusion drives innovation in Windows 11, says that system-wide live captions could also prove useful to people learning another language, or who are in loud or quiet environments – such as those in an active household or in a library, trying to watch something like a class.
“The diversity of the people that we want to serve helps us look at a problem in a more holistic way, because we’re understanding all of the different points of view and we’re trying to make sure that we are designing solutions that can help everyone,” Hernandez says.
The Windows teams also worked on empowering people of all abilities to sharpen their focus, limit distractions and improve their workflow in this update.
In the before times (pre-pandemic), Alexis Kane, a product manager on the Windows Accessibility team, often left her laptop behind when she attended in-person meetings. (She commuted to the Redmond, Washington, headquarters of the company daily from her home in Seattle.) Most of her day was spent collaborating with others, so she estimates she actively used her laptop only one-third of her day.
“I wouldn’t even bring my laptop into the conference room. I would sit there and be able to listen to whoever,” says Kane, who prefers to take notes with a pen and paper. “If I was focused, my door would be closed and I wouldn’t look up. So if someone walked by my office, they wouldn’t interrupt me.”
Everything changed during the COVID-19 lockdowns when she had to work from home.
Kane found the number of notifications popping up on her laptop – which was now always on during her work hours – to be overwhelming, exacerbated by her ADHD. Pings came left and right – something she admits initiating, because she wanted to relay questions before she forgot them.
“But when you’re the person receiving the notifications, it feels like ‘oh no.’ At least for my brain,” Kane says. “I instantly see this notification and maybe I’m not answering it right now, but I’m definitely thinking about it.”
Another big change that’s still making a big impact on her happens during meetings.
“I struggle with this. There’s been such a change in standards and how we do meetings. And so even now that we’re a little bit back in the office, it’s kind of etiquette to always be on the call as well. And so that means your laptop is still open and you still have access to the meeting chat, which some people I think have really enjoyed, being able to put their comments in the chat during a meeting, if they don’t feel comfortable speaking out, or just want to write out their thoughts,” says Kane, who’s gone back to the office once a week. “For me it now adds double the amount of work, it feels like. I have to go back and read the chat because I can’t do both at once and it’s extremely overwhelming if I try to read them during the meeting. So it’s just kind of constant.”
Hernandez says this could affect other users, too — like people who are blind or have low vision and use screen readers.
“They’re trying to listen to this meeting and then all the chats that are coming in as notifications tell them: message, message, message, message,” she says.