October 2017 archive

How to…… Use Windows Access Options

What is it?

Windows has a number of features built into to make using a computer easier for people with disabilities. The Ease of Access Centre (shortcut Windows key + U)  is way to get to these quickly, and to have some guidance on what to use.

Who is it for?

Users with a broad range of difficulties including:-

  • blind and visual impairments,
  • physical disabilities,
  • cognitive difficulties,
  • difficulties with text.

The options make the computer behave slightly differently to how it normally would. The options all have shortcuts to enable them, and include:-

Sticky keys (press shift 5 times) – a facility that lets you use the keyboard one handed. Any function that requires holding down two or more keys – such as Ctrl/Alt/Del can be done one key at a time. Useful for those who have restricted mobility in one hand.

Filter keys (hold shift down for 8 seconds) – a way to limit repeated key strokes for users who have a tremor. Ordinarily you can hit a key to repeat a letter and it will immediately appear. With filter keys you can set a delay for the second key press.

Narrator (Windows key + enter) – a screen reader that reads the on-screen text including the dialogue boxes and warnings that appear.

Speech to text  (no shortcut) – a function that lets you dictate to your computer.

High Contrast (Ctrl + left shift + PrtScreen) – to make the screen easier to read by using yellow text on a black background and enlarging the icons.

Magnifier (Windows + + to turn on, Windows Key + Esc to turn off) – enlarges sections of the screen as you pass the mouse over them.

On-screen keyboard (no shortcut) – for users using a touch screen, switches, or eye-gaze.

Mouse options include – changing the size and colour of the cursor, adding a trail to make it easier to see, showing its position when you press Ctrl, and changing the thickness of the cursor.

How do I use it?

These options make Windows computers for people with a range of difficulties, whether they are physical in operating the keyboard, visual in working with the screen, or with literacy and both reading and writing text.

As with most things on a computer you can often get to them in different ways. The easiest is probably to hold down the Windows key and press U.

What else is there?

Some of these options, such as Narrator and  Speech to Text are not very sophisticated and there are commercial products that do it all better, but the Ease of Access Centre can get you started.

You can find out more at either of these links.

To find out more visit either   http://www.microsoft.com/enable

Or – https://mcmw.abilitynet.org.uk/ 

You can also add on toolbars such as those from WordqSpeakq, or Texthelp. (See later posts.)