Windows 8 – Ease of Access – Ease of Access Center

Using a computer can be tough for physically impaired people, who face difficulties with their eyes, ears and hands. Even a completely able person will feel “handicapped” if the mouse and/or keyboard stop working.

In such cases, Windows can aid you with its Ease of Access tools, which provide easy accessibility to Windows to a workable extent.

There are four main accessibility tools provided by Windows –

  • Narrator – This tool provides you an audible description of the content of whatever Windows is focusing on currently – an application window, a button, a text box, tooltip, etc. It is really helpful for visually impaired people.
  • On-Screen keyboard – If your mouse and keyboard fail to work for some reason, then order a new one, and meanwhile, start using the on-screen keyboard provided by Windows. Another advantage is that you can type in your sensitive passwords using this virtual keyboard, so as to avoid any malicious key logging.
  • Magnifier – Launch this tool if you feel like the text in front of you is very small. This tool will zoom in your screen to the level that you want.
  • High Contrast – This is actually a setting instead of a tool. You can set everything on Windows to display content in extremely contrasting colors, so that content can be located and easily and speedily by visually impaired people.

This applet provides you settings to customize the usage of these accessibility tools, as well as customizations for mouse and keyboard.

How to Launch It

  • Open the traditional Control Panel through the Start Screen or using the Run Windows command “control”.
  • Select “Category” view for Control Panel.
  • Select “Ease of Access” category. This opens a new page containing the subcategories.
  • Select “Ease of Access Center”. This will launch the applet in the same window.

Main Page

The main page lets you launch the four accessibility tools. Also, it provides links to customize their settings.

Each customization that you make to the tools will be started each time you log in to Windows.

Magnifier

This tool makes everything bigger on the screen. Thus, a person with a weak eye vision can easily see the content on the screen.

As shown in the above figure, everything has kind of “zoomed in”. However, this also means that some content will hide out from the screen. You can view it by moving your mouse to the corner and edges of the screen.

One awesome feature that Magnifier provides is different views of the magnified content. You can magnify the whole screen (Full Screen View), just a rectangular part of the screen (Lens View), or view the magnified content in a separate window (Dock View).

Also, you can change the zoom level of the Magnifier. You can also set the Magnifier to follow the keyboard focus instead of the default mouse focus.

Narrator

Hear what you can’t see. This is what Narrator does for you – speak about the currently focused item like an application window, a tool tip, a button, or anything else. If the focused item has text, it will speak it to give you an audio aid.

You can customize its settings like the speed, volume, pitch and gender of the voice, enable echo for each key that you type in, enable the Narrator to speak whatever the mouse is pointer on, set keyboard shortcuts to control Narrator, etc.

On-Screen Keyboard

Say, you are in cyber café and urgently need to access your online back account. You suspect that the keyboard in such a public place may be key logged in order to capture sensitive data like bank credential details. Windows can rescue you from such a case through it’s on-screen keyboard.

This virtual keyboard can perform all the functions of a physical keyboard. Thus, it is also helpful when you don’t have an access to a physical keyboard.

Customize Settings

This applet provides you plethora of customizations that you can apply on the accessibility tools. The main page of the applet provides links to all these settings.

Note that all the settings you apply will take effect each time you log in to Windows, and persist throughout the session.

You can set Narrator, on-screen keyboard and/or magnifier to launch at Windows startup so that they can aid you from the login screen itself.

You can also set one of these tools to launch at the key combo “Win + Volume Up”. For visual aid, you can enlarge the cursor size of the mouse, or turn on visual notifications (like flashy windows).

In order to compensate the lack of a mouse, you can turn on mouse keys on the keyboard, through which you can simulate the mouse movements.

Some people can face problems in issuing key combinations like Ctrl + Alt + Del, or Alt + F4, because such combos require the keys to be pressed together. You can avert that by turning on Sticky Keys, in which you can issue such key combos even by pressing the keys one at a time.

This applet provides another accessibility feature called Filter Keys, which ignores repeated keystrokes. This can aid people who have trembling hands, and hence, can unwantedly press keys repeatedly.

Customize Sign-in Settings

You can set the accessibility tools and features to turn on immediately at log in, and continue to function after log in. Click on “Change sign-in settings” located on the applet’s main page.

Here, you can specify for each feature, whether it should launch at sign-in, and continue after sign-in. You can set the launch settings for

  •   Narrator
  •   On-screen keyboard
  •   Magnifier
  •   Sticky Keys
  •   Filter Keys
  •   Mouse Keys
  •   Toggle Keys

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