Adaptive Technology Disability Programs and Resource Center

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Using the built-in accessibility features of Windows 7

Windows 7 comes with several built-in accessibility features that cater to many different disabilities. This is a great free alternative to those that do not need the advanced features of standalone adaptive software. Windows 7 includes a screen-reader, a magnifier, an on-screen keyboard, speech recognition and many other assistive technology features and tools. Most of these can be accessed from the Ease of Access Center in the Control Panel.

 

Ease of Access Center

To start the Ease of Access Center, hit the Windows key + U or hit the Start button and type “ease of access” followed by the Enter key

Screenshot of the Ease of Access Center

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Narrator

You can start the Narrator by selecting it from the Ease of Access Center or by hitting the Start button, typing the word “narrator” and hitting the enter key. Here are some of the useful keyboard shortcuts that can be used to control the Narrator:

Shortcut Action
Ctrl + Shift + Enter Get information about the current item
Ctrl + Shift+ Spacebar Read the entire selected window
Ctrl Stop Narrator from reading text
Insert + F3 Read the current character
Insert + F4 Read the current word
Insert + F5 Read the current line
Insert + F6 Read the current paragraph
Insert + F7 Read the current page
Insert + F8 Read the current document

For a full list of shortcuts and more information, please visit http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Hear-text-read-aloud-with-Narrator

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Magnifier

The Magnifier lets you enlarge your screen so you can read text on the screen more easily. The Magnifier lets you set the magnification level up to 16 times the original size and offers several tracking options for what you want to magnify.

You can start the Magnifier by selecting it from the Ease of Access Center or hitting Windows Key + Plus sign. Here are some of the useful keyboard shortcuts that can be used to control the Magnifier:

Shortcut Action
Windows Key + "+" Activates magnifier
Windows Key + "-" Zoom out
Ctrl + Alt + L Lens Mode
Ctrl + Alt + D Docked mode
Ctrl + Alt + F Full screen mode
Ctrl + Alt + Spacebar Where am I?
Ctrl + Alt + I Invert colors

For a list of complete keyboard shortcuts, please visit http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Keyboard-shortcuts

One drawback of this built-in magnifier is that it does not support font smoothing like a standalone magnifier like ZoomText. For more information on using the Magnifier, please visit http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Make-items-on-the-screen-appear-bigger-Magnifier

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On Screen keyboard

The On-Screen Keyboard lets you use a mouse to control a virtual keyboard. To start the On-Screen keyboard you can select it from the Ease of Access Center or hit the Start button and type “on-screen” followed by the Enter key.

You can control whether to use scan mode, hover mode and other preference by clicking the “Options” key on the bottom right of the On-Screen Keyboard. You can increase the size of the keyboard by resizing the window. The On-Screen keyboard even offers word prediction as you type.

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Speech Recognition

Windows Speech Recognition lets you use your voice to control your computer, dictate text and browse the internet. To start speech recognition, hit the Start button and type “speech recognition” followed by the Enter key. The wizard will walk you through the steps needed to set up Speech Recognition on your computer. Note that you will need a microphone to use speech recognition on Windows 7.

For a list of Speech Recognition commands, please visit http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Common-commands-in-Speech-Recognition

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Other Tools

The Ease of Access center has many other features and tools that let you customize your Windows computer and make it easier to use. Try them out and see what best fits your needs.

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Additional Resources

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