Windows 7 has an Ease of Access Center, which was originally introduced in Windows Vista. It’s a single place where all of the accessibility features and settings can be found. Windows 7 includes some new accessibility tools, and improvements to existing ones.
Magnifier is a simple screen magnification tool. It lets you increase on-screen content up to 16 times in size. The magnified area tracks the mouse or keyboard, and Magnifier now supports full screen, lens and docked modes.
Speech Recognition is a tool that lets you control your computer using your voice. An interactive tutorial guides you through the setup process. You can then dictate into almost any application, such as your email or Microsoft Word, and serve the web by “saying what you see”.
Narrator is a basic screen reading tool. It lets you hear on-screen content read aloud, including information about your desktop and error messages. You can also use it to access most common Microsoft applications, such as Windows Mail or Notepad.
On Screen Keyboard
On Screen Keyboard is a virtual alternative to a proper keyboard. It displays a full keyboard on-screen, which you can resize and customise. You can select keys using your mouse or keyboard, and predictive text is also available.
Windows Touch is an alternative to a keyboard or mouse. It works in conjunction with a touch-screen monitor and lets you control on-screen content by touch. You can scroll through information, play multi-media, resize windows and pan or zoom on-screen content.
Visual Notifications are on-screen alternatives to audio cues. Instead of playing standard system sounds such as the email notification, Windows 7 can give you a visible cue such as an on-screen flash instead.
Windows 7 includes a range of options that help you use a keyboard:
- Sticky Keys let you use a multi-key command, such as Alt + f4, by pressing each key separately instead of both together.
- Filter Keys mean that if you press a key too many times in quick succession, or hold it down too long without meaning to, Windows won’t respond.
- Mouse Keys let you use the arrow keys on the numeric pad to control the mouse pointer.
- Keyboard Shortcuts let you access buttons, form fields and menus without using a mouse.
Personalisation is a range of options that let you customise the way Windows looks and feels. Amongst other things, you can choose high or low contrast colour schemes, increase or decrease text size, and add or change audio sounds.
Windows 7 has plenty of accessibility features, aimed at helping people with a wide range of disabilities. In some cases, such as Speech Recognition and Narrator, they are simple tools in comparison to existing access technologies. In other cases, such as the On Screen Keyboard and Visual Notifications, they are robust solutions. In all cases, Microsoft has made a real effort to make Windows 7 as flexible and customisable as possible for people with disabilities.