Windows 8 Accessibility Features

Ease of Access is the area you need to go to on your Windows 8 machine. This contains many accessible options that Microsoft have developed over the years. I want to share these with you and explain what they do:-

  • 0n-screen keyboard – this pops up when required or when clicked on the task bar. It consists of alphanumeric and emoticons but no speech input as this is covered next. The maximise button will snap the keyboard to the bottom third of the screen. Although you seemingly can’t change the font it is functional for a tablet user.
  • speech recognition – although not the best speech recognition it does work for some students – particularly those who require a single word at a time input. But it is a suck it and see method and should be considered as a way of seeing how this type of access might work.
  • Change text size – for visual users this may well be needed as the icons are quite small and opaque in colour making it more difficult for a visually impaired user to see. Fortunately, the store does give larger tile icons to find software and can be laid out according to different uses.
  • Personalisation – you can make your computer more you – with pictures, themes, desktop backgrounds, screen savers and font size. For a child having a theme that they are interested would help teaching and learning. Different themes can be found online at Microsoft> themes.
  • Windows Touch – if you have a touch screen either built in or via an external monitor this is what Windows 8 was designed for. Not for use with the desktop view but more for the tiles and apps that you see in the tiled screen. You can scroll, re-size images , play media and pan and zoom.
  • Keyboard shortcuts – allow you to move around the screen. Switching between the desktop view and the tiled view is via the windows key. The search icon if you can’t get it is windows+ c  this is very useful for setting up wifi and networks. This is an app in the windows store ” Windows keyboard shortcuts” or “Windows Cheats”
  • Visual notifications – this is a new and interesting one to make the navigation of the operating system more friendly and useful. Items flash on the screen and it is used instead of sound alerts – a problem for a person with hearing impairment
  • Mouse adaptions
    • Sticky keys – instead of pressing three keys at once you can press one key at a time when sticky keys is turned on
    • Mouse keys – instead of using a mouse you can use the arrow keys on a numeric pad ( difficult on a laptop!)
    • Filter keys – for ignoring unwanted keystrokes that occur in rapid succession.
  • Navigator – is a screen reader that reads aloud the text that appears on the screen and describes events such as error messages. It is now faster to use
  • Magnifier – enlarges portions of the screen and handy for partially sighted pupils. Making some of the more indistinct and small icons larger

These are the main access tools. You can also use High Contrast for those needed a simpler screen layout. I hope that this helps users get the best out of a Windows 8 laptop or tablet!

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