As promised, the following is a preliminary screen reader advisories for Windows 21H2 releases:
- Windows 10 21H2 (build 19044)
- Windows 11 (build 22000)
IMPORTANT: Windows 11 is in preview, therefore information can change without notice.
For Windows 10 21H2 (build 19044):
As an enablement package (delivered in the form of a cumulative update), screen readers compatible with Windows 10 21H1 (May 2021 Update) will work. For best experience, use a screen reader release compatible with Edge 85 or later. The following are recommended screen reader releases:
- Narrator: built into Windows
- JAWS: 2020 or later
- NVDA: 2020.3 or later
- Any screen reader compatible with at least May 2021 Update, or if not met, at least with October 2020 Update
Note: not all features are being tested by Windows Insiders - future updates will enable additional features.
For Windows 11 (build 22000):
Screen readers must be updated to support Windows 11 specific changes. These changes include updated Start menu and Taskbar design, Notification Center (Windows+N) and Control Center (Windows+A), Widgets (Windows+W), the new emoji panel (Windows+period), Settings app (Windows+I), design changes to system tray (Windows+B) and other UI tweaks. Apart from Narrator, current screen reader releases are not yet optimized for Windows 11, and in some cases, things will not work.
- JAWS: cannot use emoji panel and clipboard history.
- NVDA: screen curtain will not work.
The good news is that screen reader vendors (Microsoft, Vispero, NV Access) are aware of Windows 11 changes and are working on addressing screen reader specific issues.
Screen reader requirements:
- Narrator: built into Windows
- JAWS: 64-bit releases are required, with Vispero noting that JAWS 2022 will include support for Windows 11
- NVDA: upcoming 2021.2 includes foundations to support Windows 11
- Other screen readers: depends on notices from vendors
Recent Windows 11changes that will affect screen reader users:
- Settings (Windows+I): more label issues were corrected.
- Windows+C no longer summons Cortana – replaced by opening a “chat” window, a portal to Microsoft Teams (preview at the moment).
- In some cases, an unknown “pane” window gets focused when switching between apps. Microsoft is aware of this and is testing a potential fix.
- When opening emoji panel, focus moves to emoji search field. At least in Narrator (and in NVDA with a specific add-on installed), you can use arrow keys to move between emojis. You must tab to “see more emoji” to view other emojis.
- Quick menu )Windows+X) shortcut keys are working again.
- You cannot set default apps by activity such as web browsing – you can set defaults on a per-app basis and for specific file type and/or protocol handlers.
- File Explorer: ribbon is replaced by a toolbar.
- Others to be discovered.
A few reminders:
- The above is preliminary information. Advisories from screen reader vendors override notices from this forum.
- Although some folks are pointing to October as release month for Windows 10 21H2 and 11, things can change without notice. What is certain is that Windows 10 devices that are actually eligible for Windows 11 (recent multi-core 64-bit processors from Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm, at least 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB disk space, UEFI+Secure Boot+TPM 2.0 hardware/firmware settings, additional requirements for features such as chat functionality) will be offered a free upgrade to Windows 11, and Windows 10 will be supported until October 2025.
- Windows 10 feature updates are released twice a year and are supported for at least 18 months, whereas Windows 11 feature updates will be released annually and will be supported for at least two years. This is consumer support – enterprises will receive one year of additional updates for Windows 10 fall releases and for every Windows 11 feature update. This is subject to change as time goes on.
Hope this helps.