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Configuring Accessibility

Windows Vista includes accessible technology that enables computer users to adjust their computers to make them easier to see, hear, and interact with. The accessibility settings in Windows Vista are particularly helpful to people with visual difficulties, hearing loss, pain in their hands or arms, or reasoning and cognitive issues.

Windows offers several programs and settings that can make the computer easier and more comfortable to use. Additional assistive technology products can be added to your computer if you need other accessibility features.

The Ease of Access Center is a central location that you can use to set up the accessibility settings and programs available in Windows (see Figure 3.14). In the Ease of Access Center, you'll find quick access for setting up the accessibility settings and programs included in Windows. You'll also find a link to a questionnaire that Windows can use to help suggest settings that you might find useful.

Figure 3.14

Figure 3.14 The Ease of Access Center.

To open the Ease of Access Center, click the Start button, Control Panel, Ease of Access, and then Ease of Access Center. Another way to access the Ease of Access Center is to press the Windows logo key + U. You can open a mini Ease of Access Center by clicking the Accessibility icon, located in the lower-left corner of the logon page.

You can adjust the following settings:

  • Use the Computer Without a Display. Windows comes with a basic screen reader called Narrator that reads aloud text that displays on the screen. Windows also has settings for providing audio descriptions for videos and controlling how dialog boxes display. In addition, many other programs and hardware are compatible with Windows and available to help individuals who are blind, including screen readers, Braille output devices, and many other useful products.
  • Make the Computer Easier to See. Several settings are available to help make the information on the screen easier to understand. For example, the screen can be magnified, screen colors can be adjusted to make the screen easier to see and read, and unnecessary animations and background images can be removed.
  • Use the Computer Without a Mouse of Keyboard. Windows includes an onscreen keyboard that you can use to type. You can also use Speech Recognition to control your computer with voice commands and to dictate text into programs.
  • Make the Mouse Easier to Use. You can change the size and color of the mouse cursor, and you can use the keyboard to control the mouse.
  • Make the Keyboard Easier to Use. You can adjust the way Windows responds to mouse or keyboard input so that key combinations are easier to press, typing is easier, or inadvertent key presses are ignored.
  • Use Text and Visual Alternatives for Sounds. Windows can replace two types of audio information with visual equivalents. You can replace system sounds with visual alerts, and you can display text captions for spoken dialog in multimedia programs.
  • Make It Easier to Focus On Reading and Typing Tasks. A number of settings can help make it easier to focus on reading and typing. You can have Narrator read information on the screen, adjust how the keyboard responds to certain keystrokes, and control whether certain visual elements are displayed.
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