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Accommodating Disabled Users

Windows can be set up to assist disabled users. Ease of Access is Microsoft's umbrella term for tools that make a computer easier to use for people with poor eyesight, hearing, or mobility. Ease of Access Center is the main switchboard that teaches you about ease-of-access options and lets you turn them on or off. Table 4.2 describes the main features.

Table 4.2. Ease of Access Features

Feature

Description

Magnifier

Enlarges part of the screen in a small separate window while you work, leaving the rest of your desktop in a standard display.

Narrator

Reads onscreen text aloud and describes some computer events (such as error messages) when they happen.

On-Screen Keyboard

Displays a picture of a keyboard with all the standard keys so you can type with mouse clicks or a joystick.

High Contrast

Makes things easier to read by increasing the contrast of colors. Keyboard shortcut: Press left Alt+left Shift+Print Screen (or PrntScrn).

Speech Recognition

Lets you give commands and dictate text by using your voice. See "Using Speech Recognition" later in this chapter.

Mouse Keys

Lets you use the arrow keys on your keyboard or the numeric keypad to move the mouse pointer around the screen. Keyboard shortcut: Press left Alt+left Shift+Num Lock.

Sticky Keys

Lets you press key combinations, such as Ctrl+Alt+Delete, one key at a time. Keyboard shortcut: Press Shift five times.

Toggle Keys

Plays an alert each time you press the Caps Lock, Num Lock, or Scroll Lock key. Keyboard shortcut: Press Num Lock for 5 seconds.

Filter Keys

Removes unintentional repeated keystrokes when you hold down a key too long. Keyboard shortcut: Press right Shift for 8 seconds.

The easiest way to learn about Ease of Access options is to answer a questionnaire that recommends settings based on your answers. If you prefer to skip the questionnaire, you can explore and set each option individually.

To open Ease of Access Center:

  • Choose Start > All Programs > Accessories > Ease of Access > Ease of Access Center (Figure 4.54).

    Figure 4.54

    Figure 4.54 Ease of Access Center starts by reading its own text aloud. You can mute it by unchecking Always Read This Section Aloud.

    or

    Choose Start > Control Panel > Ease of Access > Ease of Access Center.

    or

    Choose Start, type ease of access in the Search box, and then press Enter.

    or

    Press Windows logo key+U.

To use the Ease of Access questionnaire:

  1. In Ease of Access Center, click Get Recommendations to Make Your Computer Easier to Use.
  2. Follow the onscreen instructions (Figure 4.55).
    Figure 4.55

    Figure 4.55 When you finish the questionnaire, Windows presents you with a list of Ease of Access options that you can turn on or off.

To set Ease of Access options individually:

  • In Ease of Access Center, click the links under Explore All Settings (the bottom portion of Figure 4.54). Each link will take you to a page of controls that lets you turn on or off related Ease of Access options (Figure 4.56).
    Figure 4.56

    Figure 4.56 These options appear if you click Make the Computer Easier to See. (One assumes that Microsoft actually is referring to the screen image rather than the computer itself.)

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