Monitors/output

Accommodating Individuals with Multiple Disabilities

Assistive technologies, like their mainstream counterparts, are often designed with assumptions about user capabilities. For example, screen readers for blind users require extensive keyboard use, which may cause problems if the user also has difficulty using their hands. Creative strategies may help people with more than one disability to accomplish their goals using technology.

Consulting with the User

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Free Computer AT Already in Macintosh Computers

The Macintosh OS X operating system built-in accessibility features to make the monitor, keyboard, or mouse easier to use for many people. This article provides information on these features, including how to turn them on and use them. Some of these features are also available in earlier Macintosh systems; please contact us if you would like more information. Another good resource on Macintosh accessibility is the AT Mac blog.

Mouse Assistance/Alternatives

MouseKeys

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Free Computer AT Already in Windows Computers

The Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 operating systems all include a wide range of built-in accessibility features. These can be activated to make the monitor, keyboard, or mouse easier to use for many people. This article provides information on these features, including how to turn them on and use them in all three versions of Windows. Most of these features are also available in earlier Windows systems.

Mouse Assistance/Alternatives

MouseKeys

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Assistive Technology and Elders

When considering assistive computer technology for elders, three issues need to be addressed: how will they need to be accommodated, what technology exists to provide accommodations, and how can these technologies be presented so elders will use them.

How Do Elders Need To Be Accommodated?

For elders, disability exists on a continuum of severity. Some disabilities are a natural part of aging and are generally mild.  Other disabilities rise in incidence with age, and may be mild to severe. Finally, more people with mild to severe long-term disabilities are living well beyond retirement age.

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Refreshable Braille Devices

Individuals who can read braille may prefer it to audio as a means of accessing information from a computer. This is particularly true for programmers and others who need to closely proofread their work. Refreshable (electronic) braille displays allow blind individuals to access on-screen text.

Refreshable braille devices have multiple braille 'cells', spaces on a surface that correspond to the 2-column-3-row layout of braille dots. Each cell has 6 pins that can be raised or lowered electronically, creating the dot pattern for the character. For example, the letter 'a' is created by raising only the top left pin.

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Large Computer Pointers/Cursors

Current computer operating systems use a small icon called a pointer or cursor that moves on the screen when the mouse is moved. The most common pointers are an arrow, a vertical bar that appears in word processing document (sometimes called the I-Beam), and a hand that appears on web pages when the pointer is on top of a link. These pointers can be quite small or may blend in with the background, making them difficult to see, especially for people with low vision.

This article discusses several ways to make the pointer more visible. Utilities built into the operating system can make the pointer easier to see by making it larger, providing higher contrast, or providing supplemental visual cues. If these are not sufficient, some third-party programs have additional capabilities.

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Pointer modification: Provides themes that change the color and size of the standard pointers. One Windows option has an option for animating the pointers, which may help in catching users' attention.

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Screen Readers for Blind Users

Screen readers provide an audio version of information that appears on a computer screen. They use keyboard commands to substitute for mouse use, and read almost everything on the screen, including menus, dialogue boxes, etc.

This article covers both free and third-party commercial screen readers designed for use by blind people, and will help you get started.

Programs designed for use by sighted people with learning or cognitive disabilities are covered in the article "Text-to-Speech Readers for People with Learning Disabilities."

Most screen readers are highly customizable, so that users can specify preferences such as whether punctuation is read, how fast the program speaks, or whether cues helpful for new users are spoken.

A video introduction to how blind people use screen readers is available online.

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Setting Up Accessible Workstations

When discussing computer accessibility in public computer labs, much attention is given to modifications to the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. However, for some users, accessible furniture and good lighting are equally if not more important. Setting up accessible computer workstations at a library or other public access point requires some planning, but usually little additional expense.

This article goes over some of the major considerations to help you get started.

  • Wheelchair access.  Make sure that there is an accessible path of travel to at least one of your workstations.  Chairs should be easy to move out of the way so a wheelchair can fit at the workstation, without inconveniencing other patrons.
     

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Magnify Printed Material With Closed Circuit TVs

Low vision users may have difficulty reading books and other printed matter.  Closed circuit TVs (CCTVs) use video cameras aimed at print materials; the image appears on a screen. This image can then be modified by enlarging the text size or changing black-on-white text to white-on-black ("inverted text"). They can also be used to magnify other things; for example, some people use CCTVs to facilitate stitching needlepoint or tying fishing lures.

This article covers the options for CCTVs.

CCTVs range in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.  Options to consider include the following:

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Screen Magnifier Software

Simple magnifiers are built into all operating systems.

">Screen magnifier software enlarges text and other elements on the monitor.  Simple versions are built into all operating systems, and on some smartphones and other portable devices

This article covers both free and third-party AT solutions.

Try it yourself:

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