Windows Operating System (OS) Accessibility

Where can you adjust the accessibility settings on your computer?

If you have a Windows Vista or Windows 7 computer, there is a centralized location where you can adjust many of the accessibility settings on your computer. It is called the Ease of Access Centre, which is found in the Control Panel. If you are using a Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 computer, the Ease of Access Centre can be found in both the Settings and the Control Panel. Most of the settings overlap between the two, but there are some differences in what can be adjusted and how it can be adusted, as well as the information provided.

From the Control Panel, you can choose from the common accessibility tools used or explore the settings based on how you need to be able to use the computer. This includes choosing from the following options:

  • Computer without a display
  • Make computer easier to see
  • Use computer without a mouse or keyboard
  • Make the mouse easier to use 
  • Make the keyboard easier to use
  • Text or visual alternatives to sound
  • Easier to focus on tasks

For Windows XP, the accessibility settings can be found in the Accessibility Options, which is located in the Control Panel.  Here you can change the settings for: keyboard, sound, display, mouse and general settings.

What settings can be changed on your computer?

There is a number of built in accessibility features of the Windows OS that will help you input into the computer with greater ease. This includes:

  • FilterKeys – adjusts the keyboard response so the inadvertently repeated keystrokes are ignored. This is helpful for the user who gets keys repeated by mistake.
  • MouseKeys – a feature for individuals who have difficulty using a mouse.  MouseKeys allow you to use the numeric keypad to control the movement of the mouse.
  • On-Screen Keyboard - a virtual on screen keyboard can be used with a pointing device instead of a standard keyboard.
  • Speech Recognition – allows the user to use their voice to interact with the computer, reducing their use of the mouse and keyboard.
  • StickyKeys – a feature that will allow those who may have difficulty pressing multiple keys at one time. StickyKeys allows you to press one key at a time instead of pressing them simultaneously.
  • ToggleKeys – will provide sound to specific keys when specific keys are pressed (e.g., Num Lock, Caps Lock, etc.). This is helpful for those who may be typing while looking away from the screen or those with a visual impairment.

Alternative Display
A number of settings can be enabled on your computer in order to alter the way the information that is displayed on the computer. The following settings are offered in the Windows OS:

  • Audio descriptions – describes what’s happening in videos.
  • Background images – turns off background images that are overlapping with the content to help make the screen easier to view. 
  • Colour or size of the mouse pointer – this feature allows you to make the pointer larger, or change the colour to make it easier to view.
  • High Contrast – can benefit those who have difficulty viewing the screen. This feature allows heightened screen contrast making the text, icons and images easier to view.
  • Screen Magnifier – enlarges the screen in order to view the screen more easily.
  • Screen Reader – consists of a narrator that reads out loud while you are using the computer. This feature can benefit those with print disabilities or those who prefer to hear information rather than see it.
  • Size of text and icons – this feature allows for the text and icon size larger making them easier to see.
  • Thickness of the blinking cursor – this feature allows you to adjust the thickness of the cursor so it is easier to see.
  • Turning off all unnecessary animations – this feature provides you the option of turning off animation effects. This feature can benefit those who get easily distracted or may find a cluttered screen confusing.
  • Turning on text captions for spoken dialog – allows you to enable text captions for spoken dialog.
  • Turning on visual notifications to sound – this setting allows you to receive notifications visually rather than audibly

Resources

BBC’s My Web My Way – a site that provides information on how to make web browsing easier by using the accessibility options of your computer. Resources are provided for Windows, Mac and Linux OS.

Microsoft Accessibility Homepage – Find out how to adjust the settings on your computer here!