Six Tips To make your Computer More Accessible – Ease of Access

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If you’re having troubles using your computer because it is hard to read the screen, you have a hard time hearing the speakers, or the mouse is hard to control, then read on.  There are many adjustments you can make to your computer to make it easier to use.

In Windows 7, you can adjust many of the settings for easier interaction through the Ease of Access Center.  To display this screen follow theses steps:

  1. Click on the Start Menu.
  2. Type Ease of Access in the Search programs and files box
  3. Press Enter or Click on the Ease of Access Center search result

Windows 7 Ease of Access Center

Tip 1:  All Settings are organized under the Ease of Access Center

The Ease of Access Center makes it really convenient to change any of the Windows 7 accessibility settings.  From this one screen, you can adjust settings to make it easier to see, hear, and control your computer.

As you delve into the various settings you’ll quickly find there a many tweaks, in fact, so many, it can be overwhelming.  To help with this, many common tools are shown at the top in the Quick access to common tools section.  Don’t worry about everything; just start with some basics to help make your computer more managable to you.

Tip 2:  Use the Magnifier

The magnifier is used to enlarge a portion of the screen.  You can set it to enlarge an area around the mouse.  This is especially handy, as you can see the general layout of the screen, but still view a zoomed-in view of the items you need to read.  Once the magnifier is launched there are two settings you’ll want to adjust:

  • Views – Use to switch from magnifying the entire screen (the Full Screen setting)  or magnifying around the mouse (the Lens setting).
  • Zoom In and Zoom Out – Use to change the “power” of magnification.  The higher the number, the bigger items appear.

To access the Magnifier app, just hover over the magnifying glass, which is shown on your desktop, and click.

The magnifier is a mini-app, so I would reccomend reading the help file to get a better understanding of all its features.   You can get to the help file by clicking on the magnifying glass and then clicking on the blue question mark.

 

Tip 3:  Make the Computer Easier to See

Within the Ease of Access Center, click on the Make the computer easier to see text link to a list of settings you can change.  Ironically, this screen is pretty busy, with lots of options, so it isn’t the easiest screen to read.

 

If you’re having troubles making out borders of windows and other visual elements, try a high contrast theme.  Click on Choose a High Contrast theme to display the theme chooser.  The high contrast themes are shown at the bottom of the list for you to try.

 

If you want Windows to read aloud to you headings and captions, click the Turn on Narrator item.  As long as your speakers are plugged in, you’ll hear Windows speak out the names of programs and text.  Be sure to have the volume turned up.

Another useful feature is to change the size of text and icons.  Once you click on this setting, simply select either Medium – 125% or Larger – 150% setting.  Selecting either setting enlarges text and other visual elements.

Tip 4:  Make the Mouse Easier to Use

As screens get bigger and our eyes less sharp, it is so easy to lose the mouse cursor, also know as the pointer, on the screen.  Several times during the day the mouse will just get completely lost on the screen and I’ll need to swish it around just to find it.  If you find this happening more frequently, you can adjust it so the mouse is more visible.

There are two types of settings you can select:  Size and Color.  The sizes are arranged into rows; whereas, the colors  are in columns.  The bottom right, Extra Large Inverting is the most visible.  The upper left, Regular White, is the normal setting.

Tip 5:  Make the Keyboard Easier to Use

There are several setting to help you with the keyboard, whether it is to control the mouse with the keyboard, or to minimize erroneous keystrokes because of an unsteady hand.  These setting are accessed from the Ease of Access Center by clicking on Make the Keyboard Easier to Use.

  • Mouse Keys – If you’re unable to use a mouse, but are good with the keyboard, then click Turn on Mouse Keys.  This allows you to move the mouse using the numeric keypad.  Click on the link Set up Mouse Keys to adjust this features to your preferences.
  • Sticky Keys – Makes it easier to type key combinations such as CTL+ALT+DEL.  These chords can be cumbersome to type at any age.  Avoid finger gymnastics, press the keys one at a time with Sticky Keys.
  • Filter Keys – If you suffer from Parkinson’s disease, or a nervous condition where your hand isn’t steady, Filter Keys helps to eliminate repeated keystrokes.

Tip 6:  Use Text or Visual Alternatives for Sounds

Many times Windows will beep to gain your attention.  This happens when it ask you a quesiton or an error ocurrs.  In you are hard of hearing you’ll miss these cues and may not notice that Windows demands your attention.  To make it easeir to notice these events, you can swith on visual notifications for sounds.

The visual notification you choose can be a subtle as flashing the active caption bar, which is the title of the windows, to a bold as flashing the entire desktop!

Also, if it is available, you can turn on text captions, similar to closed captioning on TV, for spoken dialogue.

Conclusion

Personally, I was very suprised by the number and depth of settings you can adjust to suit your particular needs.  The screens can be confusing, and you may need to have someone more versed in computers to assist you with the settings.  As always, if you have a question write a comment and we will answer it.

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