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Use of Macros as an Accessibility Strategy

Macros are coded sets of instructions added to existing programs to change or enhance their functionality. In some cases, macros are easy to create and implement; in others, they may require sophisticated programming knowledge. This article talks about how macros can be used as an important accessibility tool and various ways to develop them.

Examples of Macro Use

  • Macros can be used to simplify the execution of complex functions, particularly those that need to be repeated. For example, users may need to go through documents imported from other sources to find and remove extraneous page breaks; a macro can be written to initiate and perform this process with a single key combination.

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Assistive Technology for People with Limited or No Use of Their Hands

This article provides an overview of alternative strategies that people with physical disabilities can use to augment or replace use of their hands.

Optimizing Hand Use

Many people, even those with severe difficulty using their hands, prefer to maximize their manual capabilities rather than use alternative strategies. Fortunately, there is a wide range of assistive technologies that can help with this:

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Touchscreen Use and Accessibility Issues

Touchscreens are becoming ubiquitous in mobile devices: tablets, smartphones, e-readers, etc. However, individuals who have either visual or dexterity disabilities (or both) may have difficulties using standard touchscreen technology. This article covers the types of problems that people may experience, as well as innovations that attempt to address these barriers.

Vision

Traditional touchscreen use, like mouse use, requires good hand/eye coordination. If users cannot see the target, they cannot activate it. This affects opening applications, using the virtual keyboard, and most other touch screen functions. Recent touchscreens have built-in solutions for this problem:

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Accessibility and E-Readers

E-readers (portable devices used primarily for reading electronic books) and general purpose tablets with book-reading apps, like the iPad, are fast becoming popular choices for reading the growing collection of books available in electronic formats. Both types arrived with some accessibility advantages, and developers have been making their products more accessible to people with visual and dexterity disabilities. This article is a summary of the current accessibility state-of-the-art for the most popular of these devices, as well as information on using computers to access e-books. The field is evolving due to lawsuits against schools and libraries, by groups concerned with access.

Most e-readers have features that make them easier for some users, compared to printed books: lighter weight, buttons or screen gestures for page-turning, magnification, and good contrast in low light. Brands and models differ widely on these and more advanced features such as text-to-speech, easy-to-use controls, and screens that perform well in all lighting conditions.

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Developing Alternative/Augmentative Communication Layouts

Alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) require customization so that the device is appropriate to each user's capabilities and needs. This article covers the steps to take so that there is a good fit between the strategy and the user.

Establish what the user wants to communicate

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Microphones for Speech Recognition

Speech recognition systems perform best when used with an appropriate microphone. This article talks about different microphone options and how to get the best results from each.

Headset microphones work well because they keep the microphone close to the user's voice. Place the headset's microphone consistently, near the corner of the user's mouth. Avoid placing it where it will get bumped or pick up the sound of breath.

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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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Accessible Options for Art, Music, and Other Creative Activities

Creativity software can help users bypass the most difficult physical, sensory, and cognitive aspects of making art, while enabling expression and exploration. While there is not much high-tech hardware or software for making art specifically made for people with disabilities, there are a variety of mainstream options that can be put to this purpose. Many of these are particularly relevant to people with dexterity disabilities that prevent them from holding a paintbrush or strumming a guitar.

This article covers some of those options in:

  • Painting/Drawing
  • Making Music
  • Photography
  • Video and Animation

If you already have a creativity application, examine the interface, documentation, and online resources; you will usually find at least some of these usability and accessibility features:

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Accessible Voting

The Help American Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 mandates that people with disabilities be able to vote independently and privately. This mandate may involve machines that are either specifically designed as accessible alternatives, or are used by all voters but have mandated accessibility features.

Accessible voting machines should have the following capabilities:

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