How to set Accessibility features for people who are blind or who have low vision in Windows XP

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Article ID: 308978 - View products that this article applies to.
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SUMMARY

Microsoft Windows XP offers several features to make it easier for users with low vision to operate their computers. You can access and enable these features from the Start menu, the Control Panel, or the Accessibility Wizard. This article describes how you can set the Accessibility features in Windows XP for people with low vision.

The Start menu Accessibility programs

The Start menu contains visual enhancement utilities that you can select.

To use the Accessibility program, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and then click Accessibility.
  2. Select one of the following features:
    • Magnifier
      With this feature, you can enlarge the screen display.
    • Narrator
      This feature provides audio assistance about the items that are displayed on the screen.

To use Magnifier to enlarge the screen display

Magnifier is a display utility that makes the screen more readable for users who have low vision. Magnifier creates a separate window on which a magnified portion of the screen is displayed. You can also change the color scheme of the magnification window for easier visibility. You can move or resize the Magnifier window, or use a drag-and-drop operation to move it to the edge of the screen and lock it in place. Magnifier is intended to provide a minimum level of functionality for users with slight visual problems. When Magnifier is open, you can arrange the Magnifier window, and use the Magnifier Settings dialog box to set Magnifier options.

To update Magnifier options, use the following methods:
  • To use the Change position of the Magnifier window feature, put the pointer inside the magnification window. The insertion point becomes a hand. Use a drag-and drop operation to move the window to the desired area on your desktop.
  • To use the Change size of the Magnifier window feature, move the pointer over the edge of the magnification window. The insertion point becomes a double-pointed arrow. Use a drag-and drop operation to move the magnification window border to resize the window.
  • To use the Invert colors of the Magnifier window feature, in the Magnifier Settings dialog box, click to select the Invert colors check box.
  • To use the Set the magnification level feature, in the Magnifier Settings dialog box, select a magnification level. The default magnification level is 2.
  • To use the Set Magnifier tracking options feature, select the check box next to each tracking option that you want to use:
    • To magnify the area around the pointer as it moves on the screen, click Follow mouse cursor.
    • To magnify the area at the insertion point, click Follow keyboard focus. When you press TAB or use the arrow keys, the focus moves to reflect the current screen position.
    • To display the magnified area that surrounds the insertion point while you are typing, click Follow text editing.

To use Narrator to provide audio assistance for the screen display

Narrator is a text-to-speech utility for users who are blind or who have low vision. Narrator is designed to work with Notepad, WordPad, Control Panel programs, Microsoft Internet Explorer, the Windows desktop, and Windows Setup. Narrator may not work correctly in other programs. Narrator reads what is displayed on your screen: the contents of the active window, menu options, or the text that you have typed. You must have text-to-speech capabilities installed on the computer to use Narrator. Narrator is not available for all languages and is currently only supported on the English version of Windows XP. Narrator has a number of options with which you can customize the way in which screen elements are read.

Click the options that you want in the Narrator dialog box:
  • Click Announce events on screen to have new windows, menus, or shortcut menus read aloud when they are displayed.
  • Click Read typed characters to have typed characters read aloud.
  • Click Move mouse pointer to the active item to have the pointer follow the active item on the screen.
  • Click the Voice button to adjust the speed, volume, or pitch of the voice.

The Control Panel Accessibility Program

You can use the Accessibility Program in Control Panel to enable and configure features that assist users who have low vision.

To open the Accessibility dialog box, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, click Control Panel, and then click Accessibility Options.
  2. In the Accessibility Options dialog box, click the Display tab to have access to options for visually-impaired users.
  3. Click to select the Use High Contrast check box to change the screen display to use colors and fonts designed for easier reading. Click the Settings button to select a high-contrast color scheme for your Windows XP system. The default high-contrast scheme is High Contrast Black (Large). Choose a scheme from the drop-down list in the High contrast appearance screen; picking a scheme with the word "large" or "extra large" in the scheme name is typically best.
  4. Use the Cursor Options section of the dialog box to change the appearance of the cursor so that it is easier to see:
    • Adjust the Blink Rate to change the speed of the cursor's blinking action. Move the slider bar between None and Fast until you find the blink rate that makes it easy to spot the cursor on the screen.
    • Adjust the width of the cursor by moving the Width slider bar between Narrow and Wide until you find the width that is easy to see.

The Accessibility Wizard

If you prefer the wizard interface to enable features, open the Accessibility Wizard.

To open the Accessibility Wizard, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, point to Accessibility, and then click Accessibility Wizard.
  2. When the wizard starts, click Next to start setting accessibility options.
  3. Use the wizard options that apply to features for users with low vision. The following three options are displayed on the Text size options screen:
    • Use usual size text for Windows: This option makes no changes to the standard Windows appearance scheme.
    • Use large window titles and menus: This option is the same as selecting the High Contrast option in the Accessibility program in Control Panel.
    • Use Microsoft Magnifier, and large titles and menus: This option turns on Magnifier.
  4. Click Next after you make your selection. On the next screen, the options that are displayed depend on the choices that you selected in the previous screen.
  5. Click Next to continue.
Note After you have completed the first part of the Accessibility Wizard and the Set Wizard Options section, completes the process to set the Accessibility Features.

To set wizard options, follow these steps:
  1. For users with low vision, click the I am blind or have difficulty seeing things on screen option, and then click Next.
  2. Select the scroll bar and window border size that is comfortable, and then click Next.
  3. Select the icon size that is comfortable, and then click Next.
  4. Select the high-contrast color scheme that is comfortable, and then click Next.
  5. Select the size and color of the mouse cursor that is comfortable, and then click Next.
  6. Adjust the cursor blink rate and size that is comfortable, and then click Next.
  7. Click Finish to apply your settings.

REFERENCES

You can use the Utility Manager to view and control the status of accessibility features. Administrators and users with administrative rights can control the accessibility features. See the following article:
307773 How to control Accessibility features for visually impaired users by using Utility Manager in Windows



Properties

Article ID: 308978 - Last Review: May 7, 2007 - Revision: 1.7
APPLIES TO
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
Keywords: 
kbenv kbhowtomaster KB308978

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