Accessibility in Microsoft® Windows® 2000
Beginning with Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft has included accessibility features in its operating systems and many of its applications, including Office 97, Office 2000 and Net-meeting. In Microsoft Windows 2000, the accessibility features have been significantly en-hanced. All the accessibility options provided by Windows 2000 are available through the Accessibility Wizard, which guides users through all the Windows 2000 accessibility features and configures their computers according to the chosen specifications. This section guides users through the configuration of their Windows 2000 accessibility options using the Accessibility Wizard.
To access the Accessibility Wizard, users must have Microsoft Windows 2000. Click the Start button and select Programs followed by Accessories, Accessibility and Accessibility Wizard. When the wizard starts, the Welcome screen is displayed. Click Next to display a dialog (Fig. 34.11) that asks the user to select a font size. Click Next.
Figure 34.12 shows the next dialog displayed. This dialog allows the user to activate the font size settings chosen in the previous window, change the screen resolution, enable the Microsoft Magnifier (a program that displays an enlarged section of the screen in a sep-arate window) and disable personalized menus (a feature which hides rarely used programs from the start menu, which can be a hindrance to users with disabilities). Make selections and click Next.
The next dialog (Fig. 34.13) displayed asks questions about the user’s disabilities, which allows the Accessibility Wizard to customize Windows to better suit their needs. We selected everything for demonstration purposes. Click Next to continue.
1. Tools for People with Visual Impairments
When we checked all the options in Fig. 34.13, the wizard began configuring Windows for people with visual impairments. As shown in Fig. 34.14, this dialog box allows the users to resize the scroll bars and window borders to increase their visibility. Click Next to proceed to the next dialog.
The dialog in Fig. 34.15’s dialog allows the user to resize icons. Users with poor vision, as well as users who have trouble reading, benefit from large icons.
Clicking Next displays the Display Color Settings dialog (Fig. 34.16). These set-tings allow users to change Windows’ color scheme and resize various screen elements. Click Next to view the dialog (Fig. 34.17) for customizing the mouse cursor.
Anyone who has ever used a laptop computer knows how difficult it is to see the mouse cursor. This is also a problem for people with visual impairments. To help solve this problem, the wizard offers larger cursors, black cursors and cursors that invert the colors of objects underneath them. Click Next.
2. Tools for People with Hearing Impairments
This section, which focuses on accessibility for people with hearing impairments, begins with the SoundSentry window (Fig. 34.18). SoundSentry is a tool that creates visual signals when system events occur. For example, people with hearing impairments are un-able to hear the beeps that normally warn users, so SoundSentry flashes the screen when a beep occurs. To continue to the next dialog, click Next.
The next window is the ShowSounds window (Fig. 34.19). ShowSounds adds captions to spoken text and other sounds produced by today’s multimedia-rich software. For ShowSounds to work, software developers must provide the captions and spoken text specifically within their software. Make selections and click Next.
3. Tools for Users Who Have Difficulty Using the Keyboard
The next dialog is StickyKeys (Fig. 34.20). StickyKeys is a program that helps users who have difficulty pressing multiple keys at the same time. Many important computer commands can be invoked only by pressing specific key combinations. For example, the reboot command requires pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete simultaneously. StickyKeys allows the user to press key combinations in sequence rather than at the same time. Click Next to continue to the BounceKeys dialog (Fig. 34.21).
Another common problem for certain users with disabilities is accidentally pressing the same key more than once. This problem typically is caused by holding a key down too long. BounceKeys forces the computer to ignore repeated keystrokes. Click Next.
ToggleKeys (Fig. 34.22) alerts users that they have pressed one of the lock keys (i.e., Caps Lock, Num Lock and Scroll Lock) by sounding an audible beep. Make selections and click Next.
Next, the Extra Keyboard Help dialog (Fig. 34.23) is displayed. This section acti-vates a tool that displays information such as keyboard shortcuts and tool tips when they are available. Like ShowSounds, this tool requires that software developers provide the content to be displayed. Clicking Next will load the MouseKeys (Fig. 34.24) customiza-tion window.
MouseKeys is a tool that uses the keyboard to emulate mouse movements. The arrow keys direct the mouse, while the 5 key sends a single click. To double click, the user must press the + key; to simulate holding down the mouse button, the user must press the Ins (Insert) key and to release the mouse button, the user must press the Del (Delete) key. To continue to the next screen in the Accessibility Wizard, click Next.
Today’s computer tools are made almost exclusively for right-handed users, including most computer mice. Microsoft recognized this problem and added the Mouse Button Settings window (Fig. 34.25) to the Accessibility Wizard. This tool allows the user to create a virtual left-handed mouse by swapping the button functions. Click Next.
Mouse speed is adjusted by using the MouseSpeed (Fig. 34.26) section of the Acces-sibility Wizard. Dragging the scroll bar changes the speed. Clicking the Next button sets the speed and displays the wizard’s Set Automatic Timeouts window (Fig. 34.27).
Although accessibility tools are important to users with disabilities, they can be a hin-drance to users who do not need them. In situations where varying accessibility needs exist, it is important that the user be able to turn the accessibility tools off and on as necessary. The Set Automatic Timeouts window specifies a timeout period for the tools. A timeout either enables or disables a certain action after the computer has idled for a specified amount of time. A screen saver is a common example of a program with a timeout period. Here, a timeout is set to toggle the accessibility tools.
After clicking Next, the Save Settings to File dialog appears (Fig. 34.28). This dialog determines whether the accessibility settings should be used as the default settings, which are loaded when the computer is rebooted, or after a timeout. Set the accessibility settings as the default if the majority of users need them. Users can save the accessibility settings as well, by creating an.acw file, which, when clicked, activates the saved acces-sibility settings on any Windows 2000 computer.
4. Microsoft Narrator
Microsoft Narrator is a text-to-speech program for people with visual impairments. It reads text, describes the current desktop environment and alerts the user when certain Win-dows events occur. Narrator is intended to aid in configuring Microsoft Windows. It is a screen reader that works with Internet Explorer, Wordpad, Notepad and most programs in the Control Panel. Although it is limited outside these applications, Narrator is excel-lent at navigating the Windows environment.
To get an idea of what Narrator does, we will explain how to use it with various Win-dows applications. Click the Start button and select Programs, followed by Accesso-ries, Accessibility and Narrator. Once Narrator is open, it describes the current foreground window. It then reads the text inside the window aloud to the user. Clicking OK displays Fig. 34.29’s dialog.
Checking the first option instructs Narrator to describe menus and new windows when they are opened. The second option instructs Narrator to speak the characters you are typing as you type them. The third option moves the mouse cursor to the region being read by Narrator. Clicking the Voice... button enables the user to change the pitch, volume and speed of the narrator voice.
With Narrator running, open Notepad and click the File menu. Narrator announces the opening of the program and begins to describe the items in the File menu. When scrolling down the list, Narrator reads the current item to which the mouse is pointing. Type some text and press Ctrl-Shift-Enter to hear Narrator read it (Fig. 34.30). If the Read typed characters option is checked, Narrator reads each character as it is typed. The direction arrows on the keyboard can be used to make Narrator read. The up and down arrows cause Narrator to speak the lines adjacent to the current mouse position, and the left and right arrows cause Narrator to speak the characters adjacent to the current mouse position.
5. Microsoft On-Screen Keyboard
Some computer users lack the ability to use a keyboard but can use a pointing device such as a mouse. For these users, the On-Screen Keyboard is helpful. To access the On-Screen Keyboard, click the Start button and select Programs followed by Accessories, Ac-cessibility and On-Screen Keyboard. Figure 34.31 shows the layout of the Microsoft On-Screen Keyboard.
Users who still have difficulty using the On-Screen Keyboard should purchase more sophisticated products, such as Clicker 4™ by Inclusive Technology. Clicker 4 is an aid for people who cannot effectively use a keyboard. Its best feature is its ability to be customized. Keys can have letters, numbers, entire words or even pictures on them. For more informa-tion regarding Clicker 4, visit www.inclusive.co.uk/catalog/clicker.htm.
6. Accessibility Features in Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5
Internet Explorer 5.5 offers a variety of options to improve usability. To access IE5.5’s ac-cessibility features, launch the program, click the Tools menu and select Internet Op-tions.... From the Internet Options menu, press the button labeled Accessibility... to open the accessibility options (Fig. 34.32).
The accessibility options in IE5.5 augment users’ Web browsing. Users can ignore Web colors, Web fonts and font size tags. This eliminates problems that arise from poor Web page design and allows users to customize their Web browsing. Users can even specify a style sheet, which formats every Web site visited according to users’ personal preferences.
These are not the only accessibility options offered in IE5.5. In the Internet Options dialog click the Advanced tab. This opens the dialog shown in Fig. 34.33. The first option that can be set is labeled Always expand ALT text for images. By default, IE5.5 hides some of the <alt> text if it exceeds the size of the image it describes. This option forces all the text to be shown. The second option reads: Move system caret with focus/ selection changes. This option is intended to make screen reading more effective. Some screen readers use the system caret (the blinking vertical bar associated with editing text) to decide what is read. If this option is not activated, screen readers may not read Web pages correctly.
Web designers often forget to take accessibility into account when creating Web sites and they use fonts that are too small. Many user agents have addressed this problem by allowing the user to adjust the text size. Click the View menu and select Text Size to change the font size using IE5.5. By default, the text size is set to Medium.
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