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Chapter 4. Personalizing Your Work Environment > Accommodating Disabled Users

Accommodating Disabled Users

Windows XP can be set up to assist disabled users. Accessibility is Microsoft’s umbrella term for tools that make a computer easier to use for people with poor eyesight, hearing, or mobility. Accessibility tools are:

  • Accessibility Wizard

  • Accessibility Options

  • Magnifier

  • Narrator

  • On-Screen Keyboard

  • Utility Manager

Tip

  • Some accessibility tools are useful for everyone. Designers and developers can use Magnifier for pixel-level design work, for example.


Accessibility Wizard

Accessibility Wizard helps you choose accessibility options step by step. Use it to learn about Windows XP’s accessibility functions without exploring each setting individually.

To run the Accessibility Wizard:
1.
Choose Start > All Programs > Accessories > Accessibility > Accessibility Wizard.

2.
Click Next.

Accessibility Wizard guides you through the available accessibility options (Figure 4.56).

Figure 4.56. The Accessibility Wizard asks questions and sets accessibility options appropriately. In this introductory screen, you set the size of onscreen text.


Tip

  • Settings in the Accessibility Wizard also are available in Control Panel’s Accessibility Options utility.


Accessibility Options

Control Panel’s Accessibility Options utility lets you adjust accessibility settings for vision-, hearing-, or mobility-impaired users.

To set accessibility options for vision-impaired users:
1.
In Control Panel, choose Accessibility Options > Accessibility Options > Display tab (Figure 4.57).

Figure 4.57. To toggle between high-contrast and standard colors, press Alt+Left Shift+Print Screen.


2.
To make Windows and other programs use a color scheme that increases legibility, check the Use High Contrast box; then click Settings to pick the scheme.

3.
To make the cursor (insertion point) blink faster or slower, drag the Blink Rate slider.

4.
To make the cursor wider so that it’s easier to see, drag the Width slider to the right.

5.
Click OK (or Apply).

Tips

  • Some high-contrast color schemes include large and extra-large fonts.

  • See also Magnifier and Narrator later in this section.


To set accessibility options for hearing-impaired users:
1.
In Control Panel, choose Accessibility Options > Accessibility Options > Sound tab (Figure 4.58).

Figure 4.58. ShowSounds, which works a little like TV closed-captioning, substitutes text captions for speech and other sounds. Programs labeled “XP-Compatible” generally support this feature.


2.
To display a signal onscreen when Windows plays a system sound (such as a warning beep or incoming-mail beep), check the Use SoundSentry box.

3.
If SoundSentry is activated, select a visual signal, such as flashing the title bar or the entire screen.

4.
To turn on captioning for programs that support it, check the Use ShowSounds box.

5.
Click OK (or Apply).

To set accessibility options for mobility-impaired users:
1.
In Control Panel, choose Accessibility Options > Accessibility Options > Keyboard tab (Figure 4.59).

Figure 4.59. StickyKeys is useful for people who have trouble pressing more than one key simultaneously. FilterKeys is for people who have trouble pressing keys quickly or lightly.


2.
To make the Shift, Ctrl, Alt, and Windows logo keys toggle on or off by pressing and releasing them (rather than holding them down), check the Use StickyKeys box.

3.
To have Windows ignore brief or repeated keystrokes, check the Use FilterKeys box.

4.
To make the computer beep whenever you press Caps Lock, Num Lock, or Scroll Lock, check the Use ToggleKeys box.

5.
To make programs display extra keyboard Help (if available), check the Show Extra Keyboard Help in Programs box.

6.
Click the Mouse tab (Figure 4.60).

Figure 4.60. MouseKeys is designed for people who have trouble using the mouse, but it’s handy for making precise moves in graphics programs, too.


7.
To use the numeric keypad to move the mouse pointer and to click, double-click, or drag, check the Use MouseKeys box.

8.
Click OK (or Apply).

Tips

  • Click Settings to fine-tune the behavior of StickyKeys, FilterKeys, ToggleKeys or MouseKeys; each utility has several functions that you can choose individually.

  • StickyKeys lets you use keyboard shortcuts such as Ctrl+Z or Ctrl+Alt+F1 without having to hold down multiple keys simultaneously.

  • FilterKeys prevents rrrrrrrepeated keystrokes when you hold down a key. See also “Configuring the Mouse” earlier in this chapter.

  • If you watch the keyboard (rather than the screen) when typing, you may find ToggleKeys useful for warning you that you’ve TURNED ON CAPS LOCK ACCIDENTALLY.

  • In MouseKeys mode, press 2, 4, 6, or 8 on the numeric keypad to move the pointer. Press 5 to click, + to double-click, - to right-click, Insert to start dragging, or Delete to end dragging. Hold down Shift to move in small, precise increments or Ctrl to jump in large increments.

  • The keyboard shortcuts for toggling Accessibility options are:

    StickyKeys. Press Shift five times in a row.

    FilterKeys. Hold down the right Shift key for eight seconds.

    ToggleKeys. Hold down the Num Lock key for five seconds.

    MouseKeys. Press left Alt+left Shift+Num Lock.

  • See also “On-Screen Keyboard” later in this chapter.


To set general accessibility options:
1.
In Control Panel, choose Accessibility Options > Accessibility Options > General tab (Figure 4.61).

Figure 4.61. Automatic Reset is useful when several people use your computer but only some require accessibility options. Notification is useful to alert people who might turn on an accessibility feature accidentally. SerialKey is appropriate for people who can’t use a standard keyboard or mouse.


2.
To make Windows turn off all accessibility features after a period of inactivity, check the box in the Automatic Reset section, and select a length of time.

3.
To display a confirmation message or beep every time you use a shortcut key to turn an accessibility feature on or off, check the boxes in the Notification section.

4.
To turn on support for special input devices (keyboard and mouse replacements attached to a serial port), check the box in the SerialKey Devices section, and click Settings to define the device’s chosen port name and data rate.

5.
To apply these accessibility settings to all future logons or new user profiles, check the boxes in the Administrative Options section.

6.
Click OK (or Apply).

Magnifier

Magnifier is a magnification program for visually impaired users; it displays a special panel at the top of the screen that shows an enlarged version of the area of the screen near the pointer or cursor (Figure 4.62). When you first open Magnifier, the Magnifier Settings dialog box appears (Figure 4.63).

Figure 4.62. Magnifier acts as a magnifying glass that follows the pointer or cursor around the screen.


Figure 4.63. Select Invert Colors for a high-contrast color scheme that improves visibility in the magnification window.


To open and configure Magnifier:
1.
Choose Start > All Programs > Accessories > Accessibility > Magnifier.

2.
In the Magnifier Settings dialog box, select the magnification level; specify whether the magnified area tracks the mouse pointer, highlighted area, or text insertion point; or change the color scheme.

3.
To hide the Magnifier Settings window, minimize it; to exit, click Close or Exit.

Tips

  • The Magnifier window is docked to the top of the screen by default, but you can move it, resize it, or drag it to any screen edge to lock it in place.

  • Magnifier is a bare-bones utility, and even Microsoft suggests that you may need a more robust commercial program for full-time use. Even so, Magnifier is quite helpful if you can accept its limits.


Narrator

Narrator is a text-to-speech program for visually impaired users; it uses a voice synthesizer and your system’s audio hardware to read aloud the contents of the active window, menu options, text that you’ve typed, and text and captions of other screen elements. When you first open Narrator, the Narrator dialog box appears (Figure 4.64).

Figure 4.64. Narrator is designed to work with Notepad, WordPad, Control Panel programs, Internet Explorer, the Windows desktop, and Windows setup; it may not read words aloud correctly in other programs.


To open and configure Narrator:
1.
Choose Start > All Programs > Accessories > Accessibility > Narrator.

2.
In the Narrator dialog box, specify whether new windows, menus, or shortcut menus are read aloud when displayed; whether typed characters are read aloud; or whether the active item on your screen is read aloud.

3.
Click Voice to adjust the synthesized voice’s speed, volume, or pitch.

4.
To hide the Narrator window, minimize it; to exit, click Close or Exit.

Tips

  • Only the English version of Windows XP supports Narrator.

  • For fun, have Narrator read your email.

  • See also “Configuring Speech Recognition and Translation” later in this chapter.

  • Narrator, like Magnifier, is less capable than a full-featured commercial equivalent. If text-to-speech really boosts your ability to use a computer, consider investing in a third-party program.


On-Screen Keyboard

This virtual keyboard lets mobility-impaired users click the mouse (or other pointing device) to type. The program that’s accepting your typed characters must be active while you’re using On-Screen Keyboard.

To open and configure On-Screen Keyboard:
1.
Choose Start > All Programs > Accessories > Accessibility > On-Screen Keyboard (Figure 4.65).

Figure 4.65. On-Screen Keyboard displays a facsimile of a full keyboard that floats atop the active program.


2.
Use the Keyboard menu to choose the onscreen keyboard’s layout.

3.
Use the Settings menu to add a click when you select a key; choose a font; or set the typing mode.

4.
To close On-Screen Keyboard, choose File > Exit (or click Close).

Utility Manager

Utility Manager manages Magnifier, Narrator, and On-Screen Keyboard from a central location.

To open and configure Utility Manager:
1.
Choose Start > All Programs > Accessories > Accessibility > Utility Manager (Figure 4.66).

Figure 4.66. The first time that you open Utility Manager from the Start menu, a warning message tells you that some of Utility Manager’s features are available only if you start it by pressing Windows logo key+U.


or

Press Windows logo key+U (if your keyboard supports it).

2.
Select an accessibility tool; then click Start or Stop.

3.
Use the check boxes to tell Windows to start any or all tools when you log on, lock your desktop, or start Utility Manager.

4.
Click OK (or Apply).

Tip

  • If your keyboard has no Windows logo key, use On-Screen Keyboard to open Utility Manager with the keyboard shortcut. This maneuver enables features that are otherwise unavailable.


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