Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lab Workout #15: Making Windows Easier to Work With

Windows has a number of very helpful tools in the Ease of Access Center that can be used for students with visual, hearing, or physical impairments, as well as for those with mental impairments like ADD.

The first tool I explored is the Magnifying Tool. This tool pulls up a small box that the user can make bigger or smaller to cover certain parts of the screen. The box follows wherever the mouse goes. By cursing over certain material, the magnifying box shows whatever the mouse is over. The magnifying box also follows the cursor when typing. In the screen shot above, you can see the magnifying box at the top of the screen, highlighting text or images wherever the cursor goes. This tool would be very useful for a visually impaired student who can work on the computer with a bit of help seeing the text.

Microsoft Narrator voices what is happening on the computer screen as you navigate the keyboard. It echos the user's keystrokes, announces system messages, announces scroll notifications, and narrates. Visually impaired students can benefit from this added help to digest information on the screen. ADD students could also benefit. The narration constantly reminds students what they are doing and will hopefully keep them on track.

In the Microsoft Ease of Access center there are controls to remove background images from the desktop and minimize animations when possible. Darkening the screen can keep an ADD student from being distracted by an interesting desktop picture. Animations that pop up while students are in the midst of concentration will be gone if the box is checked, keeping students on track.