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21 November 2019

Microsoft has been steadily working on the development of its new web browser to replace the version of Edge that is currently in Windows 10. While the new version is also called Edge, its underpinnings are closely related to the code used in Google Chrome and the great news is its screen reader and high contrast support are working well.

The new Edge browser has the potential to bridge the gap of current web browsers which generally either provide good screen reader support, or high contrast support, but not necessarily both. Hands-on tests of the Edge Beta indicate that it does indeed provide the benefit of lightning-fast rendering of web pages currently in Chrome, but providing compatibility with popular screen readers including NVDA, support for the built-in Narrator screen reader in Windows 10. along with high contrast themes in the operating system being applied by default to web pages once the feature is enabled.

Screenshot of 'force color profile' option in Edge Beta flag settings.

Due to
the Edge browser currently being in Beta, adding the high contrast theme takes
a little bit of tweaking. To try out the new Edge browser, follow these steps:

  1. Download the new Edge Browser ‘Canary channel’ version.
  2. Enter in the web address edge://flags/.
  3. A list of experimental settings will appear. In the search box on the web page, type in ‘force colour’ and press Enter.  
  4. The Force Colour Profile will appear. Change the drop-down box to say ‘Default’.
  5. Follow the prompts to restart the browser. Edge will now match the High Contrast setting enabled in Windows 10.

While
there’s no date for an official release of the new Edge browser, the Beta works
very well with both High Contrast theme and screen readers making it a potentially
good choice for blind and low vision assistive technology users.

NOTE: At
this time of writing the Edge browser is in Beta. As such, the instructions and
quality of product may change.

The Centre for Accessibility is a joint project by Media on Mars, DADAA and Dr Scott Hollier and is funded by the Department of Communities, Disability Services.

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