Windows 7 Features New Ways to Make Your Computer Easier to Use
By Ellen Kampel
On October 22, Microsoft released the newest version of Windows -- Windows 7. If you are one of the millions of people using this operating system, you’ll want to learn more about the free accessibility options and programs in Windows 7 that let you customize your computer for maximum comfort and efficiency. Improvements in features such as speech recognition and touch technology are more useful than ever for everyday vision or dexterity constraints that people with MS may face.
As you begin to explore these new features, the Ease of Access Center offers navigational support, including quick access to commonly used tools: Magnifier, On-Screen Keyboard, Narrator, and High Contrast. To make your computer easier to use, fill out a questionnaire that ends with recommended settings based on your answers to questions about your eyesight, dexterity, hearing, and other needs.
Accessibility enhancement highlights include:
Screen Magnification Windows Magnifier enlarges portions of the screen, or the whole screen, to make it easier for you to view text and images, and includes two new viewing modes.
On-Screen Keyboard (OSK) allows you to type and enter data without having to rely on the traditional keyboard. Use OSK to select keys with a mouse or another pointing device.
Narrator is a basic screen reader that reads aloud text that appears on screen and describes some events (such as error messages) that appear while you're using the computer.
Text Enlargement Increase the size of text and other items, such as icons, on your screen without changing the screen resolution of your monitor or laptop screen. This allows you to change text and other image sizes on your screen while keeping your monitor or laptop set to its optimal resolution.
Speech recognition allows you to command your PC with your voice including the capability to dictate words into word-processing programs or to fill out online forms in a Web browser. You can dictate documents and e-mails and surf the Web by saying what you see. An easy setup process and an interactive tutorial are available to familiarize you with the speech commands and train your computer to better understand you.
Windows Touch With a touch-screen monitor, you can touch your computer screen for a more direct and natural way to work. Use your fingers to scroll, resize windows, play media, and pan and zoom.
Explore all settings by category. Get right to a particular set of options related to vision, or dexterity, for example, by selecting the appropriate category:
John M. Williams reviewed this column. Ellen Kampel is the public affairs manager for the Accessibility Business Unit at Microsoft. John M. Williams has been writing about assistive technology for 29 years. He coined the phrase assistive technology.