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Accessibility Tools

Published: November 03, 2005

Microsoft is dedicated to making its products and services accessible and usable for everyone. Microsoft Windows XP Professional includes accessibility features that benefit all users. These features make it easier to customize the computer and give users with disabilities better access to the applications they need to do their work.

For information on how to obtain the Windows XP Professional Resource Kit in its entirety, please see http://www.microsoft.com/mspress/books/6795.asp.

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On This Page

Customizing for Accessibility
Configuring Accessibility Features
Setting Accessibility Options by Type of Disability
Adding Assistive Technology Products
Additional Resources

Customizing for Accessibility

Several built-in Windows XP Professional technologies and Windows Explorer options can help administrators and users configure computers with accessibility features. For more information about how users with specific disabilities can use these features, see “Setting Accessibility Options by Type of Disability” later in this appendix.

Windows XP Professional installs built-in accessibility options automatically. Users cannot delete these accessibility options from the operating system after they are installed, including those options available in Accessibility Wizard or Control Panel.

Note Even if all of an individual user’s data and applications are stored centrally, some user settings that might include accessibility options are stored on the local computer. When you perform a clean installation, these settings and data must be preserved and reapplied to the system after the installation.

Windows Installer

Windows Installer allows the operating system to install, maintain, and remove software on client computers. The service includes self-repairing applications. If an application is missing or damaged, Windows Installer reinstates the missing files the next time the user tries to open them. The self-repairing feature can alter selected options upon reinstallation. Administrators can configure these options for users.

For more detailed information about Windows Installer, see Chapter 2, “Automating and Customizing Installations.”

Group Policy

Group Policy is important to administrators who support users with disabilities because you can use it to ensure that accessibility features and settings are available. You can publish applications for defined groups of users who have assistive needs. And you can verify that the Group Policy settings that are applied to your users or computers allow a flexible user interface (UI) and include compatibility with external software tools.

User Profiles

A user profile is a user-environment setting. Users with disabilities can change their user profiles to suit their accessibility needs. For accessibility purposes, it is important to consider setup options that maintain individual user profiles.

Automatic logon

For many users, pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL before logging on to a computer is difficult or impossible. Some users select the StickyKeys option to allow them to use CTRL+ALT+DEL. The automatic logon feature allows users to bypass this keyboard shortcut and go directly to the logon process, which requires the correct name and password. You can allow a user to log on without using CTRL+ALT+DEL by using the User Accounts Control Panel option, on the Advanced tab, under Secure logon.

Administrative options

You can set Administrative Options for several features by using Accessibility Wizard or Accessibility Options in Control Panel. Settings you can make in both include automatic time-out, automatic reset, and default accessibility settings.

Note Automatic reset and automatic time-out do not turn off SerialKeys.

Multiple user profiles

You can use Accessibility Wizard to set multiple user profiles. Each user who logs on to the computer can change settings without deleting the previous settings. Each user’s settings are restored at the next logon session. Windows XP Professional automatically presets features to default settings for other users. When accessibility features are turned off, users who do not need them do not notice that the features are installed. Multiple users of the same computer can use their logon and password information to set preferences and desktop settings, including any accessibility features that they need.

Roaming user profiles

A user profile is a group of settings and files that defines the environment that the system loads when a user logs on. It includes all the user-specific configuration settings, such as program items, screen colors, network connections, printer connections, mouse settings, and window size and position. Roaming user profiles make it possible for users to use different computers within the corporate network and still retain a consistent desktop, including any accessibility options they need to use.

Fast User Switching

Fast User Switching, a new feature in Windows XP Professional, allows multiple users to log on to a computer without requiring that other users log off. Multiple users can switch back and forth without closing applications or losing settings and data. This feature allows users who need to use accessibility options to more easily share their computers with other users. This feature is available only when a computer is not joined to a domain.

Note If Fast User Switching is enabled, you cannot use SerialKeys.

Customizing the Desktop

Control over desktop elements such as menus, toolbars, shortcuts, and status indicators is important for users who must customize these features for accessibility in daily operations. In Windows XP Professional, you can customize the desktop to create an arrangement of navigational elements needed for quick access to applications and folders. Users can also assign shortcut keys to allow users to start and use applications and features without using a mouse. You can customize desktop elements in the Display Control Panel option by using the Appearance tab.

Users can customize toolbars within applications to contain frequently used commands and buttons. The ability to customize toolbars is most useful for people who use the mouse rather than the keyboard. Users who prefer the keyboard usually also prefer to add commands to the Start menu. Users can use or create desktop toolbars in the following ways:

  • Putting a toolbar in a more convenient place on a desktop or taskbar

  • Using the mouse to drag and drop an item or pressing SHIFT+F10 on the keyboard to move frequently used files and programs for quick access

  • Adding an address bar to the taskbar or to the desktop to give the user the ability to type an Internet address without first opening the browser

Start menu options

You can add program shortcuts to the Start menu to make the menu more efficient. You can change Start menu options by using the Taskbar and Start Menu Control Panel option.

System status indicators

From the Start menu, you can use the TAB key to move to the status indicators on the notification area of the taskbar. These indicators, or icons, show the user whether MouseKeys, StickyKeys, or FilterKeys are active and the status of certain other programs or hardware.

Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer provides a consistent interface for accessing all files, folders, and applications on the computer and, for some users, using this interface can be easier than using the mouse to navigate to objects on the desktop.

Utility Manager

Utility Manager allows faster access to some accessibility tools and also displays the status of the tools or devices that it controls. Administrators can also use Utility Manager to designate features that must start automatically when a user logs on. Utility Manager includes three built-in accessibility tools: Magnifier, Narrator, and On-Screen Keyboard.

Although only administrators can customize Utility Manager, users can start or stop the individual utilities. Users with administrator rights can also set up additional applications or run programs that install third-party add-on devices.

You can access Utility Manager by pressing the WINDOWS LOGO key+U shortcut key combination or by using the Start menu (point to All Programs, Accessories, and then Accessibility). Network policy settings might prevent opening Utility Manager from the Start menu if the computer is connected to a network.

To start accessibility features at login
  1. Open Utility Manager by pressing the WINDOWS LOGO key+U.

  2. Select the accessibility feature that must start when a user logs on to the computer.

  3. In the Options box, select Start automatically when I log in.

By setting these options, the administrator can provide immediate access for users who must use Narrator, Magnifier, or On-Screen Keyboard to operate the computer. This procedure can also be used to open third-party programs or start devices when Windows starts if the vendor has supplied the installer for them.

Configuring Accessibility Features

Custom interfaces allow users with disabilities to control their computing environments so that they can effectively use the software they need to perform their work. Although accessibility features install automatically with Windows XP Professional, any previously configured options and settings must be reconfigured—and customized options must be configured for individual users.

You can configure most accessibility options in either Control Panel or Accessibility Wizard. However, several options are configurable in only one of these tools. In some instances, there are different names for the same, or similar, features. Table H-1 describes such variances.

Table H-1 Variances in Accessibility Wizard and Control Panel Features

Accessibility Wizard

Control Panel

UI elements and schemes organized by category of disability

UI elements and schemes organized by feature

Magnifier

No Magnifier

No SerialKeys

SerialKeys

No customizable keyboard

Dvorak keyboard

BounceKeys

FilterKeys

Mouse options in I have trouble using a keyboard, on the Mouse menu

Mouse options in Mouse properties and the Mouse tab in Accessibility Options

Personalized menus

No personalized menu options

Configuring options by using Accessibility Wizard

Accessibility Wizard makes it easy to set up accessibility preferences to meet a user’s particular needs. Available from the Start menu, the wizard provides a single entry point for many frequently used features. The wizard controls sound and screen options such as volume and font sizes, keyboard options such as BounceKeys and MouseKeys, and Administrative Options.

Configuring options by using Control Panel

Accessibility Options in Control Panel allows users to customize many accessibility features in Windows XP Professional. Users can turn accessibility features on or off and customize keyboard, sound, and mouse operations. Accessibility Options gives users access to the following features: StickyKeys, FilterKeys, ToggleKeys, SoundSentry, ShowSounds, MouseKeys, and SerialKeys. Users can also modify settings in Control Panel options such as Display, Keyboard, Mouse, and Sounds and Audio Devices.

Setting Accessibility Options by Type of Disability

Accessibility features built into Windows XP Professional make it easier for users to solve a variety of specific problems. Table H-2 summarizes some common difficulties and the solutions that are built into Windows XP Professional. For more detailed descriptions of many of these solutions in the context of specific disabilities, see the sections that follow the table.

Table H-2 Common User Difficulties and Solutions

If the user has difficulty...

...use these Windows XP Professional features

Customizing settings in a multiple user network.

Accessibility Wizard, Accessibility Options in Control Panel, Utility Manager.

Remembering what accessibility features are activated.

Status indicators on the notification area of the taskbar.

In Accessibility Options, on the General tab, click Give a warning message when turning a feature on or Make a sound when turning a feature on or off.

Finding a needed feature.

Windows XP Professional Help and Support Center and Help in specific applications.

Remembering keyboard navigation shortcuts (underlined access keys).

In Accessibility Options, on the Keyboard tab, select Show extra keyboard help in programs.

Hearing sound prompts, distinguishing sounds, hearing audible cues, or working in a noisy environment.

ShowSounds, SoundSentry, and Notification options.

Using standard keyboard configurations.

Dvorak keyboards, On-Screen Keyboard, MouseKeys.

Using a keyboard because of slow key release or inadvertent repeating of keys.

FilterKeys and StickyKeys in Accessibility Options.

Holding down two or more keys at the same time.

StickyKeys.

Using a standard mouse and keyboard.

MouseKeys, On-Screen Keyboard, Utility Manager, third-party assistive technology.

Manipulating a mouse.

MouseKeys in Accessibility Options, keyboard shortcuts.

Working with a flashing cursor.

Cursor Options in Accessibility Options.

Seeing the pointer on the screen.

Cursor Options in Accessibility Options.

Seeing keyboard status lights.

ToggleKeys in Accessibility Wizard and in Control Panel; Narrator, third-party assistive technology.

Seeing screen elements.

Narrator; Magnifier; in Accessibility Wizard, select I am blind or having difficulty seeing things on screen, third-party assistive technology.

Functioning well with built-in accessibility features.

SerialKeys in Control Panel for third-party assistive technology.

Finding assistive technology and other accessibility information.

See the Microsoft Accessibility link on the Web Resources page at http://windows.microsoft.com/windows/reskits
/webresources.

You can use Accessibility Options in Control Panel to customize many accessibility features. However, you can also configure many accessibility features by using Accessibility Wizard. For example, you can customize display, keyboard, mouse, and sound options for the user’s own particular needs by using either method.

Options for Users with Vision Impairments

Features such as text-to-speech tools, keyboard shortcuts, magnifiers, mouse pointers, color and contrast schemes, and other UI elements are useful to people who are blind or have low vision, colorblindness, tunnel vision, or other vision impairments.

Microsoft Narrator

Narrator is a minimally featured text-to-speech utility included with Windows XP Professional that reads objects on the screen, their properties, and their spatial relationships. You can run Narrator from the Start menu or by using Utility Manager. Narrator automatically reads certain information when it changes on the screen. Narrator is always available, and the user can later install alternative screen-reading devices or features.

Narrator allows users or administrators to customize the way a device reads screen elements. The Voice option allows you to adjust the speed, volume, or pitch of the voice. The Reading option allows you to select the pressed keys you want Narrator to read aloud, such as DELETE, ENTER, printable characters, or modifiers. The Move mouse pointer option causes the mouse pointer to follow the active object on the screen. The Announce events on screen option allows you to configure Narrator to announce new windows, menus, or shortcut menus when it displays them.

Many users with low vision need a text-to-speech utility with a higher functionality for daily use. For a list of other text-to-speech tools, see the Microsoft Accessibility link on the Web Resources page at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/reskits/webresources.

Note Narrator is a temporary aid and is not intended as a replacement for full-featured text-to-speech utilities that are available from other software companies.

Keyboard Audio Cues

People with vision impairments might not be able to see lights on the keyboard that indicate CAPS LOCK, NUM LOCK, and SCROLL LOCK status. ToggleKeys provides audio cues to indicate whether these keys are active or inactive. If ToggleKeys is on, pressing one of these keys to activate it produces a high-pitched beep. Pressing one of these keys to inactivate it produces a beep that is an octave lower. You can activate ToggleKeys in Accessibility Options in Control Panel or select I have trouble using a keyboard or a mouse in the Accessibility Wizard. You can also use a shortcut key to control ToggleKeys.

To turn ToggleKeys on or off by using a shortcut key
  • Press and then hold down the NUM LOCK key for eight seconds. When ToggleKeys turns on, a rising series of beeps plays. When it is off, the sound is a descending series of beeps.

ToggleKeys is also useful for people who accidentally press the CAPS LOCK key instead of the TAB key because it provides immediate feedback. For keyboards that do not have indicator lights for the CAPS LOCK, NUM LOCK, and SCROLL LOCK keys, ToggleKeys provides a method for tracking that status of these keys.

FilterKeys and BounceKeys can both be set to provide audio clues when the user presses a key. You can enable the option Do you want Windows to beep when it accepts a keystroke? by selecting the check box in either of these features or by using the appropriate shortcut keys.

Magnifier

Magnifier is a screen enlarger that magnifies a portion of the display to make the screen easier to read for some people. Magnifier displays an enlarged portion of the screen in a separate window. While Magnifier can be helpful for occasional use, many users with low vision need a magnification utility with a higher functionality for daily use.

Note Magnifier is a limited solution and is not intended as a replacement for the full-featured screen-enlargement utilities that are available from other software companies. For more information about screen enlarging tools, see the Microsoft Accessibility link on the Web Resources page at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/reskits/webresources.

Using Magnifier, you can do the following:

  • Magnify an area of the screen up to nine times the standard display size.

  • Choose to have the magnified area follow the mouse pointer, the keyboard focus, the text editing focus, or any combination of these three.

  • Invert colors for contrast.

  • Resize and relocate the Magnifier display area.

When Magnifier is on, the magnified area is a display-only area, not an active area. The active focus for the cursor, keyboard, and other input devices is in the unmagnified area.

To start Magnifier, press the WINDOWS LOGO key+U to run Utility Manager; or from the Start menu, point to All Programs, Accessories, Accessibility, and then click Magnifier. If Magnifier is already running, select its button on the taskbar to open the dialog box.

You can use the mouse to resize or reposition the magnification window anywhere within the desktop area. Alternatively, you can reposition the window by using the arrow key. You can also dock the magnification window to the top, bottom, or side of the display. Press ALT+F6 to focus on the magnification window, and then press ALT+SPACEBAR to display the System Menu. Type M to invoke the move feature, and then use the arrow keys to move the magnification window.

Customizing Fonts

Users with low vision might benefit from using larger, more legible fonts in applications and in the user interface. You can change text sizes for Windows messages in Accessibility Wizard or Control Panel. Set custom options in Custom Font Size by choosing Other in the Font Size list and then either selecting one of the percentage options in the drop-down list or clicking the ruler and dragging the pointer to specify a font size.

You can add or remove fonts and restrict font sizes by removing all TrueType fonts and leaving only raster fonts. TrueType fonts are device-independent fonts that are stored as outlines and that can be scaled to produce characters in varying sizes. Raster fonts are bitmap images that can provide greater visibility at fixed sizes. Removing fonts does not delete them from the hard disk drive. Users can easily reinstall the fonts for later use. To add or remove fonts, in Control Panel, double-click Fonts.

Note Limiting fonts also limits the number of fonts available to applications. This operation should be used with caution because it affects the display of documents on the screen and how they are printed.

To limit the system to a single font
  1. Create a new folder on the desktop or hard disk.

  2. In Control Panel, click Fonts.

  3. Select all the fonts in the Fonts folder, move them to the new folder, and then restart the computer.

    The system font is not listed, so it remains even when you delete all other fonts.

The font size you specify in Control Panel affects all video adapters on your system. To change font settings for individual window objects, double-click Display in Control Panel, and then click the Appearance tab. To add a new font, in Control Panel, double-click Fonts.

Size and Color Schemes

Windows XP Professional includes a new look and feel—the Windows XP theme—although users can choose the Windows Classic theme instead. The Windows XP theme improves the overall user interface, while the Classic theme provides full flexibility for customization. Users who must configure color schemes can change all aspects of the user interface by using the Windows Classic theme. Using the Windows XP theme limits changes to the size of certain elements. You can choose a theme by using the Display Control Panel option and selecting the Theme tab.

In the Windows XP Professional Accessibility Wizard and in Control Panel, users can adjust the size and color of most screen elements, such as window text, menus, mouse pointer, fonts, and caption bars. This capability can make the system easier to use and can reduce eye strain. In Accessibility Wizard, users can change icon size, mouse pointer size, and text size.

The following are considerations for adjusting the color settings:

  • Settings that display a large number of colors require a large amount of computer processor resources.

  • A High Color setting (16-bit) includes more than 65,000 colors. A True Color setting (24-bit or 32-bit) includes more than 16 million colors.

  • The monitor and display adapter determine the maximum number of colors that can appear on the screen.

  • To change settings for another monitor in a multiple-monitor system, in the Display Properties dialog box, select the Extend My Windows Desktop onto this Monitor check box to change the settings for the other monitor. You can make color settings for each installed monitor.

To change the border width of windows, including command prompt windows, double-click Display in Control Panel, and then click the Appearance tab to select the preferred scheme. Users can also resize a window by using the keyboard instead of the mouse, or in Accessibility Wizard by selecting I am blind or have difficulty seeing things on screen. You can adjust the width of the cursor in Accessibility Options by moving the slider bar on the Display tab.

High-contrast color schemes can be helpful to users with low vision who require a high degree of contrast between foreground and background objects to distinguish the objects. For example, some users cannot easily read black text on a gray background or text drawn over a picture. By selecting a high-contrast display scheme, users can instruct Windows XP Professional and programs to display information with a high degree of contrast. Activating High Contrast mode selects a color scheme that makes it easier for some users to see screen objects. To choose a high-contrast color scheme, in Accessibility Options, on the Display tab, click Settings, and then choose a scheme from the drop-down list.

In addition, while using the Magnifier dialog box, users can temporarily invert the colors of the magnification window or display the screen in high contrast. It can take a few seconds for High Contrast Mode to take effect.

Mouse Pointers

Customized through Accessibility Wizard or Control Panel, mouse pointers allow the user to select the most visible pointer. Choices include three sizes and a white or black pointer or an inverted pointer that reacts to screen colors and changes to contrast with the background. You can set the following mouse pointer characteristics:

  • Pointer size

  • Pointer color

  • Speed of the pointer

  • Visible trails of pointer movement

  • Animation of the pointer

Other options for users who have difficulty seeing the mouse pointer include MouseKeys and Snap To. For more information about MouseKeys, see “Options for Users with Mobility Impairments” later in this appendix. For more information about Snap To, see “Options for Users with Cognitive Disabilities” later in this appendix.

Insertion Point Indicator Blink Rate

You can increase the visibility of the insertion point indicator by changing the rate at which it flashes. You can change the insertion point indicator blink rate by using the Keyboard Control Panel option.

Sound Schemes

Users with low vision might benefit from reducing distracting movement on screen. You can prevent animations, videos, and sounds from loading. By using Control Panel, you can assign custom sounds to any event. You can also customize sound schemes by turning sound on or off or by adjusting the volume up or down.

Options for Users with Mobility Impairments

Some users are unable to perform certain manual tasks, such as using a mouse or typing two keys at the same time. Others tend to hit multiple keys or bounce their fingers off keys. Mobility impairments include paralysis, repetitive stress injuries, cerebral palsy, erratic motion tremors, quadriplegia, or lack of limbs or fingers. Many users need keyboard and mouse functions adapted to their particular needs, or they rely exclusively on an alternative input device. A large number of assistive technology input devices are available to users, including keyboard filters, voice-input utilities for controlling the computer, on-screen keyboards, smaller or larger keyboards, eye-gaze pointing devices, and sip-and-puff systems that the user operates by breath control. For more information about assistive technology and a catalog of third-party assistive technology products, see the Microsoft Accessibility link on the Web Resources page at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/reskits/webresources.

The following options include some of the Windows XP Professional accessibility features that are useful to people with mobility impairments.

Keyboard Options

Impaired dexterity can make it difficult for a person to use a standard keyboard. However, keyboard filters built into Windows XP Professional compensate somewhat by correcting for erratic motion tremors, slow response time, and similar conditions. Other kinds of keyboard filters include typing aids, such as word prediction and abbreviation expansion tools and add-in spelling checkers.

The following sections describe input devices and features that are different from the standard keyboard. These features include alternative keyboard layouts, keyboard shortcuts, and specialized keyboard filters that operate on the standard keyboard but tailor the behavior of keys to specific accessibility needs.

Note In most cases, it is not possible to apply keyboard-style behavior corrections to pointing devices, such as the mouse. This limitation might affect the use of the mouse by users with impaired dexterity.

On-Screen Keyboard

Some users have difficulty with both the mouse and the keyboard. However, they might be able to use an on-screen keyboard with another input device, such as a pointing device or a joystick that connects to the serial port. They might be able to use the keyboard space bar as a single-switch device. Using the keyboard space bar as a switching device requires additional assistive technology; contact the switch manufacturer for custom cables and any other requirements.

Users can set up and customize the Windows XP Professional OnScreen Keyboard in Accessibility Options. The On-Screen Keyboard can also be run through Utility Manager. Many users with physical disabilities need an alternative keyboard with higher functionality for daily use. For a list of other Windows-based on-screen keyboard tools, see the Microsoft Accessibility link on the Web Resources page at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/reskits/webresources.

Note The On-Screen Keyboard is a limited solution and not a day-to-day alternative keyboard. Third-party on-screen keyboards provide increased functionality.

Dvorak keyboard layout for people who type with one hand or finger

The Dvorak keyboard makes the most frequently typed characters on a keyboard more accessible to people who have difficulty typing on the standard keyboard layout (known as the QWERTY layout). There are three Dvorak layouts: one for people who use two hands to type, one for people who type with their left hand only, and one for people who type with their right hand only. Dvorak layouts reduce the degree of motion required to type common English text. This feature might help avoid some kinds of repetitive strain injuries that are associated with typing. You can add the Dvorak keyboard to a Windows XP Professional installation during setup or add it later. To configure the Dvorak keyboard, double-click the Keyboard icon in Control Panel.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are keyboard-driven commands that allow a user to navigate and enter commands using just the keyboard—and not the mouse. Keyboard shortcuts are important to users with disabilities, and they cover nearly all categories of disabilities. The Microsoft Accessibility Web site includes a searchable database of keyboard shortcuts for many Microsoft products. For more information, see the Accessibility link on the Web Resources Page at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/reskits/webresources.

By using the ALT and CTRL keys in combination with other keys, a user can navigate and enter commands. Even without configuring accessibility features, the user can use the TAB key in dialog boxes to move the focus and then use the arrow keys to select options in a list. In property sheets that have multiple tabs, the user can press CTRL+TAB to select each property sheet in order from left to right. Or the user can press the TAB key until the focus is on the tab for the current property sheet and then press an arrow key to select the next sheet.

Windows indicates keyboard shortcuts by underlining the shortcut letter on menus and buttons. By default, Windows XP Professional does not underline keyboard navigation indicator letters until the ALT key is pressed. You can override this default and always display the underlines.

To reinstate the underlines for keyboard navigation
  • In Accessibility Options, on the Keyboard tab, select the Show extra keyboard help in programs check box.

For a list of keyboard shortcuts, see Windows XP Professional Help and Support Center. For accessibility-specific keyboard shortcuts, see the Microsoft Accessibility link on the Web Resources page at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/reskits/webresources.

Key sequences for quick activation of accessibility options

A type of shortcut key sequence, sometimes called “hot keys,” provides quick activation of accessibility features for people who cannot use the computer without accessibility features enabled. Key sequences allow the user to turn on a specific feature temporarily. After the feature is enabled, users can use the Accessibility Wizard or Accessibility Options to configure the feature to their own needs or to turn on the feature permanently. The same key sequence turns off the feature.

These key sequences ordinarily do not conflict with keys that programs use. If such a conflict does arise, the user can disable the key sequence and still use the feature during the current session or by using the Accessibility Wizard or Accessibility Options to turn on the feature permanently. In a typical installation of Windows XP Professional, the accessibility key sequences are inactive by default to prevent them from conflicting with other programs.

You can also assign key sequences to frequently used programs, documents, or folders, and then use a shortcut key to open the object or make it the active window. To turn on the shortcut key for a feature, in Accessibility Options, click Settings for the feature, and select the Use Shortcut check box. You can also create shortcut keys to start programs from the Start menu.

As a precaution against accidental use, if the sound features for StickyKeys are turned on, pressing an accessibility shortcut key causes special tones to sound (a rising tone for activation, and a falling tone for deactivation). A confirmation dialog box then appears, which briefly explains the feature and how it is turned on. A user who presses the shortcut key unintentionally can cancel the feature’s activation at this time. The confirming dialog box also provides a quick path to more detailed help and to Control Panel settings for the shortcut key feature, in case the user wants to turn off the shortcut key permanently.

To assign a shortcut key to start a program
  1. Create a shortcut to the object on the desktop or on the Start menu.

  2. Display the properties for the shortcut by right-clicking the shortcut icon or name and then clicking Properties or by using SHIFT+F10.

  3. Click the Shortcut tab, and then type the key combination that you want to assign to this object in the Shortcut Key box.

When a shortcut is placed on the desktop or on the Start menu, the user can press the shortcut key for the program at any time, and Windows XP Professional opens that window. Or, if the program is not running, the shortcut key starts it.

Note Some keyboard shortcuts might not work if the StickyKeys feature is enabled.

Essential keyboard shortcuts

Tables H-3 through H-7 list essential keyboard shortcuts for the user who has difficulty using the mouse or other input methods and must rely on the keyboard to navigate through Windows XP Professional. What the shortcut letter designates might vary in some configurations. In such situations, the user must also use directional arrows or the tab key, or the user must repeat the same letter to arrive at the desired icon. The Microsoft Accessibility Web site includes a searchable database of keyboard shortcuts for many Microsoft products. For more information, see the Microsoft Accessibility link on the Web Resources Page at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/reskits/webresources.

Table H-3 Accessibility Shortcut Keys

Accessibility Feature

Keyboard Shortcut

Switch FilterKeys on or off.

RIGHT SHIFT for 8 seconds

Switch High Contrast on and off.

LEFT ALT+LEFT SHIFT+PRINT SCREEN

Switch MouseKeys on and off.

LEFT ALT+LEFT SHIFT+NUM LOCK

Switch StickyKeys on and off.

SHIFT 5 times

Switch ToggleKeys on and off.

NUM LOCK for 5 seconds

Open Utility Manager.

WINDOWS LOGO key+U

Table H-4 Help Shortcuts

Accessibility Topics in Help

Key Sequence

Display Help and Support Center.

WINDOWS LOGO key, H

Select “Accessibility for People with Disabilities.”

TAB repeatedly to topic, ENTER

Enter a topic content area.

ENTER

Select a link.

TAB repeatedly, ENTER

Return to Help table of contents (move between panes).

F6

Close Help.

ALT+SPACEBAR, C

Table H-5 Accessibility Wizard Shortcuts

Accessibility Wizard

Key Sequence

Start Accessibility Wizard.

WINDOWS LOGO key, P, A, RIGHT ARROW, ENTER

Select setting.

UP ARROW, SPACEBAR; or DOWN ARROW, SPACEBAR; or TAB, SPACEBAR for setting

Go to next screen or save settings.

ENTER

Close Accessibility Wizard.

ALT+F4

Table H-6 Magnifier and Narrator Shortcuts

Action

Key Sequence

Start Utility Manager.

WINDOWS LOGO key+U

Start Magnifier.

WINDOWS LOGO key+U, ALT+TAB, down-arrow to Magnifier

Start Narrator.

WINDOWS LOGO key+U, ALT+TAB, down-arrow to Narrator

Table H-7 Control Panel Shortcuts

Control Panel Action

Key Sequence

Go to the Start menu.

WINDOWS LOGO key or CTRL+ESC

Go to Control Panel.

WINDOWS LOGO key, C (or if another icon in the Start menu begins with C, you might need to use the tab key or directional arrows to reach the icon)

Select a Control Panel option.

Select the first letter of the option name, ENTER. If more than one option starts with the same letter, you might need to use the tab key or directional arrows to reach the correct icon.

Move focus to a tab (if present).

CTRL+TAB

Move focus to a dialog box.

TAB

Display predefined schemes (if present).

DOWN ARROW

Respond to the dialog box query Save the previous scheme?

“Y” for “Yes,” “N” for “No,” or ESC to close the dialog box without saving changes

Select/clear check boxes.

SPACEBAR

Move slider bars right or left.

CTRL+RIGHT ARROW or CTRL+LEFT ARROW

Close window.

ALT+F4

StickyKeys for one-finger or mouthstick typing

Many software programs require the user to press two or three keys at a time. For people who type using a single finger or a mouthstick, that process is not possible. StickyKeys allows the user to press one key at a time and instructs Windows to respond as if the keys are pressed simultaneously. StickyKeys is especially useful when a user must press CTRL+ALT+DEL to log on to the computer.

To activate the StickyKeys feature
  • In Control Panel, in Accessibility Options, on the Keyboard tab, select the Use StickyKeys check box.

    – or –

    To activate StickyKeys from the keyboard, press SHIFT five times.

The following are tips for using StickyKeys:

  • When StickyKeys is on, pressing any modifier key (SHIFT, CTRL, WINDOWS LOGO, or ALT) latches that key down until the user presses a key that is not a modifier key. If the StickyKeys sound features are on, you hear a short low-pitched beep and then a high-pitched beep. When the next nonmodifier key is pressed, the modifier key(s) are released.

  • Pressing a modifier key twice in a row locks the key down until it is tapped a third time. If the StickyKeys sound features are on, you hear a short low-to-high sound after the first tap and a single high-pitched beep after the second tap. After a modifier key is locked, it stays locked until it is pressed a third time.

  • Any and all of the modifier keys (SHIFT, CTRL, WINDOWS LOGO, and ALT) can be latched or locked in combination.

  • For shared computers, there is an optional feature to keep other users from being confused when StickyKeys is left on. If the option Turn StickyKeys Off If Two Keys Are Pressed at Once is activated and two keys are held down simultaneously, StickyKeys automatically turns off.

  • Some people do not like to have keyboard sounds, although others find them useful. To turn feedback sounds on or off, in Accessibility Options, on the Keyboard tab select the StickyKeys check box; then either select the Make Sounds When Modifier Key Is Pressed check box to activate the feature or click the check box to clear it if the feature is already activated and you do not want it on.

  • To turn off the StickyKeys Locked mode, make sure the Press Modifier Key Twice to Lock check box is cleared.

  • To turn StickyKeys off, press SHIFT five times. This process triggers a high-to-low series of tones.

  • To turn StickyKeys on, also press SHIFT five times. This process triggers a low-to-high series of tones.

FilterKeys for users with impaired manual dexterity

Windows XP Professional includes keyboard filters such as RepeatKeys and SlowKeys that work separately or in combination to make input easier for users who have difficulty with the keyboard because of slow response time, erratic motion tremors, or a tendency to repeat the keys inadvertently. To configure these keys, in Control Panel, in Accessibility Options, on the Keyboard tab, under FilterKeys, click the Settings button. Under Filter options, click Settings.

FilterKeys can perform the following functions:

  • RepeatKeys allows the user to adjust the repeat rate or ignore the key repeat function on the keyboard, which compensates for a tendency to hold a key down too long. Most keyboards allow the user to repeat a key just by holding it down. Although this automatic repeat feature can be convenient for some people, it poses a problem for individuals who cannot lift their fingers off the keyboard quickly. This feature can also compensate for a tendency to press the wrong key accidentally.

  • SlowKeys also instructs the computer to disregard keystrokes that are repeated quickly. This allows a user to brush against keys without any effect. By placing a finger on the proper key, the user can hold the key down until the character appears on the screen.

In Control Panel, the Keyboard option also allows users to alter character repeat rates.

Note For RepeatKeys, SlowKeys, or BounceKeys (which ignores repeated keystrokes for users who might accidentally press a key too many times), you must define the acceptance delay, which allows you to adjust the amount of time that you must hold a key down before the computer accepts it.

Another useful FilterKeys feature is the option Beep When a Key Is Pressed. If this option is on and any FilterKeys functions are active, you hear a beep when you press a key or when a key repeats. For example, if SlowKeys is active, you hear a sound when a key is pressed and also when the computer accepts the key. This feature can be useful when the keyboard is set to respond differently than usual.

To adjust key repeat delay and speed
  1. In Control Panel, click Keyboard, click the Speed tab, and then move the slider bar to adjust keyboard behavior.

  2. Do the following:

    • To adjust how long you must hold down a key before it begins repeating, move the Repeat Delay slider.

    • To adjust how fast a key repeats when you hold it down, move the Repeat Rate slider.

ToggleKeys for users who inadvertently activate the lock keys

ToggleKeys instructs Windows to play a high beep or a low beep when the lock keys NUM LOCK, CAPS LOCK, or SCROLL LOCK are on. This sound signals to the user that one of these keys has been turned on.

Mouse Options

To make the mouse pointer automatically move to the default button (such as OK, or Apply) in dialog boxes and to reverse the buttons so that the right mouse button is the primary (index finger) button, use the Mouse option in Control Panel. Users can adjust other mouse settings, such as pointer speed and acceleration, left-right orientation, size, color, shape, time allowed between clicks, or animation. By selecting I am blind or have difficulty seeing things on screen and I have difficulty using the keyboard or mouse, users can also set several mouse options in Accessibility Wizard.

MouseKeys for keyboard-only input

Although Windows XP Professional is designed so that users can perform all actions without a mouse, certain programs might require one. MouseKeys in Control Panel is also useful for graphic artists and others who must position the pointer with great accuracy. A user does not need a mouse to use this feature. With MouseKeys, users can control the mouse pointer with one finger or a mouthstick by using the numeric keypad to move the mouse pointer. In this way, users can click, double-click, and move objects as if they were using the mouse. To use shortcut keys to turn the MouseKeys on or off, select the Use Shortcut check box in the Settings for MouseKeys dialog box or click this check box to clear it.

To turn on MouseKeys from the keyboard
  • Press LEFT ALT+LEFT SHIFT+NUM LOCK.

When MouseKeys is on, it emits a rising tone if sounds are turned on. If a user is using only one finger or a mouthstick to operate the computer, the easiest way to activate MouseKeys is to first activate StickyKeys by tapping the SHIFT key five times. The user can then press the three keys in sequence rather than simultaneously.

Note If FilterKeys is active, all the MouseKeys control keys respond according to the setting for FilterKeys.

When MouseKeys is on, use the following keys to move the pointer on the screen:

  • On the numeric keypad, press any of the numbered keys immediately surrounding the 5 key (also called the “arrow keys”) to move the pointer in the direction indicated by the arrows.

  • Use the 5 key on the numeric keypad for a single mouse-button click and the PLUS SIGN (+) key for a double-click.

  • To drag and release an object, place the pointer on the object and then press the INSERT key to begin dragging. Move the object to its new location, and then press DELETE to release it.

You can use the NUM LOCK key to toggle the MouseKeys control pad back to the numeric keypad and vice versa. This is especially useful with a portable computer that lacks a separate numeric keypad. On these computer keyboards, the numeric keypad is usually overlaid on top of the standard QWERTY keyboard. For example, if you are using the numeric keypad for number entry before starting MouseKeys, when you toggle out of MouseKeys by using the NUM LOCK key, you can enter numbers with the numeric keypad. If you are using the numeric keypad as a cursor keypad before starting MouseKeys, when you toggle out of MouseKeys by using the NUM LOCK key, you have a cursor keypad.

It can be useful to combine MouseKeys and a physical mouse. For example, you can use the standard mouse to move quickly around the screen and then use MouseKeys to move more precisely. Some people cannot use the standard mouse and simultaneously hold down the mouse button. Such users can use MouseKeys to lock down the currently active mouse button, move the mouse pointer by using MouseKeys or the standard mouse, and then release the mouse button by using MouseKeys.

ClickLock

ClickLock allows you to highlight or drag items on the screen without holding down the mouse button. When ClickLock is enabled, press the mouse button briefly to lock your click, and then highlight or drag an item, and then briefly press the mouse button again to release. To enable ClickLock, in Control Panel, click Mouse. On the Buttons tab, under ClickLock, click Settings, and then move the Settings for ClickLock slider to adjust how long you need to hold down the mouse button to lock the click.

SerialKeys

SerialKeys is a feature designed for users who have difficulty using the keyboard or the mouse. It allows third-party add-on hardware or software, such as single switch or puff-and-sip devices, to interact with the computer. You can enable SerialKeys from Accessibility Options. For more information about using SerialKeys with assistive technology, see “Adding Assistive Technology Products” later in this appendix.

Options for Users with Hearing Impairments

Users who have hearing impairments or who work in a noisy environment can adjust the pitch and timbre of sounds, as well as the volume associated with various on-screen events, to make them easier to distinguish. The sounds are customizable either by using Accessibility Wizard or by using Control Panel. Windows XP Professional provides sounds that users can associate with many events. These can be events generated either by Windows XP Professional or by programs. If users have difficulty distinguishing a default sound, such as the beep to signal an inoperative keystroke, they can choose a new sound scheme or design their own scheme to make the sounds easier to identify.

If the computer has a sound card, users can adjust the volume for all the sounds by using the Volume Control property sheet under Sounds and Audio Devices in Control Panel. They can also adjust the sound volume by using the speaker icon on the taskbar.

Some users require visual feedback instead of sound. Such users are likely to be interested in SoundSentry and closed captioning. The following features are useful to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

ShowSounds

ShowSounds, in Accessibility Options, instructs programs that are closed-caption-enabled to display visual feedback in the form of closed captioning. With ShowSounds enabled, information that is typically conveyed by sounds is provided visually as well, by the use of text captions, informative icons, or other visual cues.

SoundSentry

This feature for users who are deaf or hard of hearing tells Windows XP Professional to send a visual cue, such as a blinking title bar or screen flash, whenever the system generates a sound. Enabling this feature allows users to see when the computer is generating sounds and to be aware of messages that they might not hear. To enable the SoundSentry feature, in Accessibility Options click the Sound tab, and then select the User SoundSentry check box. To select a visual cue, select an option from the Choose the visual warning drop-down list box.

Note If you choose to flash the active window’s title bar, a visual cue might not be visible if the active window has no title bar. Some displays do not have a flashing border, so there is no visual cue when using this option on such display hardware. This is true of some liquid crystal displays typically found on portable computers.

SoundSentry supports only those sounds the computer’s internal speaker generates; it cannot detect sounds that are made using multimedia sound cards. If the computer has a multimedia sound card, you might need to disable this hardware to force the computer’s built-in speaker to relay the sounds.

To disable the multimedia sound card
  1. In the Control Panel option Sounds and Audio Devices, click the Hardware tab.

  2. Select the sound card, and then click Properties.

  3. On the Properties tab, expand Audio Devices.

  4. Select the sound card, and then click Properties.

  5. Select the Do not use audio features on this device check box.

Users with hearing impairments often rely on indicators, such as lights, to replace sound. If the indicator lights for the locking keys NUM LOCK, CAPS LOCK, or SCROLL LOCK are inactive, it can mean that the user selected the ToggleKeys feature in the Accessibility Options property sheet under Keyboard. To reactivate the indicator lights, click the ToggleKeys check box to clear it.

NetMeeting

Microsoft NetMeeting is a package of features designed for Internet-based conferencing. NetMeeting allows users who are deaf or hard of hearing to communicate with others in the room or on the Internet though text messages and graphics sharing. It includes a real-time text-based chat feature that allows two or more users to communicate with other users. The bi-directional communication that NetMeeting provides is faster than that available with a TTY device and allows users to save transcripts of discussions. In addition, NetMeeting allows you to share applications, conduct video conferences, and use an electronic whiteboard to create diagrams or display existing ones.

Options for Users with Cognitive Disabilities

Cognitive disabilities include developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome; learning disabilities; dyslexia; illiteracy; attention-deficit disorder; memory loss; and perceptual difficulties, such as slow response time. In addition to third-party assistive technology, such as voice-input utilities, some built-in Windows XP Professional features can be helpful to people with cognitive disabilities. Examples of such built-in features include AutoCorrect and AutoComplete.

For some users, these features facilitate their work considerably. However, it is advantageous for some users with cognitive disabilities to clear, rather than select, options such as AutoComplete or certain sound schemes. Such features can cause distractions, especially if the user is working with a text-to-speech utility. There are two AutoComplete features that affect use of Windows Explorer and the Run box and which might be undesirable for users with certain cognitive disabilities. One is an automatic suggestion, with a drop-down list of Web sites with the same letters the user has typed. The other AutoComplete feature, called Inline AutoComplete, automatically completes a line if the user has typed it before. The first feature is turned on by default, but Inline AutoComplete is not. To change these defaults, perform the following steps.

To disable the site-address AutoComplete feature
  1. In Control Panel, click Internet Options.

  2. On the Content tab, click AutoComplete, and then clear the Web Addresses check box.

To activate the inline AutoComplete feature
  1. In Control Panel, click Internet Options.

  2. On the Advanced tab, select the Use Inline AutoComplete check box.

Keyboard Filters

The FilterKeys feature allows users to adjust keyboard response time and ignore accidental pressing of keys. In both Accessibility Wizard and Control Panel, users can adjust keyboard response time to instruct Windows XP Professional to ignore accidental pressing of keys and slow response time. FilterKeys includes RepeatKeys and SlowKeys. With RepeatKeys, the user can instruct Windows XP Professional to ignore the automatic repeat feature or to slow down the keyboard repeat rate. SlowKeys requires keys to be held down for a specified period of time before the keystroke is accepted. BounceKeys is a FilterKeys option that instructs Windows XP Professional to ignore keystrokes that are faster than a set period of time.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Other options that are useful to people with cognitive disabilities are shortcut keys and other keyboard shortcuts, such as Quick Launch bar, status indicators on the notification area of the taskbar that show which features are on, and sound options. Sound schemes can help draw attention to, or provide additional feedback for, tasks as the user completes them. For a more extensive list of keyboard shortcuts, see “Options for Users with Mobility Impairments” earlier in this appendix.

SerialKeys

SerialKeys allows third-party add-on hardware or software to interact with the computer. For example, you can use SerialKeys with third-party assistive technology that allows the user to press pictures rather than spelling out full words. You can enable SerialKeys from Accessibility Options in Control Panel. For more information about using SerialKeys with add-on hardware or software, see “Adding Assistive Technology Products” later in this appendix.

Snap To

Snap To is helpful for people who have difficulty finding elements on a screen. The feature automatically moves the pointer to the default button in a dialog box. You can enable Snap To from the Mouse Control Panel option.

Options for Users Who Experience Seizures

Certain visual elements, such as flashing images, can adversely affect users with seizure disorders. These can be disabled or adjusted. Users who experience seizures, including those with epilepsy, can adjust screen elements—such as timing, color and contrast, and sound—by using Accessibility Wizard or Accessibility Options. The range of options in many of these features is expanded in Windows XP Professional.

Timing Patterns

Timing patterns can affect users in many adverse ways. Users who have seizures might be sensitive to screen refresh rates and blinking or flashing images. Users or administrators can also adjust the rate at which most objects flash to select a frequency that is less likely to trigger seizures, or they can prevent images from blinking or flashing at all.

Cursor Blink-Rate Options

Users who have seizures might be sensitive to the blink rate of screen images, such as the cursor. You can use the Keyboard option in Control Panel to adjust the rate at which the cursor blinks, or you can prevent it from blinking at all. On the Speed tab, move the Cursor blink rate slider all the way to the left to prevent the cursor from blinking.

Sound Schemes

Users who have seizures can be affected by specific sounds. Settings in Windows XP Professional can prevent the default loading of animations, videos, and sounds. By using Control Panel, users can also assign custom sounds to any event. The ability to customize sound schemes, whether by turning sound on or off or by adjusting the volume up or down, is important for people with various kinds of disabilities as well as for other users.

Color and Contrast Settings

In Accessibility Options, users can adjust color and contrast settings to make objects on the screen easier to distinguish from one another. New to Windows XP Professional is an expanded spectrum of color schemes, customizable to suit a user’s individual needs. For more detailed information about color and contrast settings, see “Options for Users with Vision Impairments” earlier in this appendix.

Adding Assistive Technology Products

Although the accessibility features included with Windows XP Professional provide some functionality for users with special needs, many users with disabilities might need assistive technology. With the use of hardware and software available through independent software vendors (ISVs) and independent hardware vendors (IHVs), collectively known as assistive technology vendors (ATVs), people with disabilities can enhance their use of the Windows XP Professional operating system.

Add-On Assistive Technology

Microsoft works with independent manufacturers to produce compatible software and hardware for users with disabilities. Independent vendors that manufacture specialized assistive technology help people with disabilities to make better use of Windows XP Professional. Products available from third-party vendors are many and varied and make it possible for people with disabilities to use computers. Available products include the following:

  • Hardware and software that provide alternatives to the mouse and keyboard, such as the following alternative input devices:

    • Tracking devices. These devices enable users who are unable to use standard input devices, such as a mouse or a keyboard, to generate input by moving their eyes or head.

    • Mouthstick. A wooden dowel held in the mouth that allows a user to activate commands by pressing one key at a time.

    • Single-switch. A device that allows a user to scan or select options or text by generating a signal by using a muscle or other controllable movement.

    • Voice-activation device. A type of speech recognition device that allows users with disabilities to control computers with their voices instead of with a mouse or keyboard.

    • Alternative keyboards. Alternative keyboards include on-screen keyboards, or variously sized or shaped keyboards that can be activated with one’s feet, elbows, and so on.

  • Devices that provide synthesized speech or devices that use Braille printers to print out information from the screen for people who are blind or have difficulty reading.

  • Word or phrase prediction software that helps users type more quickly and with fewer keystrokes.

  • Closed-captioning devices for users with hearing impairments.

  • Devices that enlarge or alter the color of information on the screen.

Finding Compatible Hardware and Software

Contact the third-party assistive technology product manufacturer to find products that are compatible with Windows XP Professional. The manufacturer should also be able to provide information about configuring settings to use with Windows XP Professional. Some add-on utilities depend on file formats and programming interfaces to interpret data accurately to the user. Such dependencies can change with each new operating system. Before you add assistive technology, it is important to perform compatibility testing with the operating system and the applications you plan to use.

Using SerialKeys for Add-On Hardware and Software

The SerialKeys feature is designed for people who are unable to use a standard user input method, such as a keyboard or a mouse. SerialKeys allows an augmentative/communication device to emulate the local keyboard and mouse. If users can point but not click, they can use pointing devices or Morse-code input systems on these devices. The interface device sends coded command strings through the computer’s serial port to specify keystrokes and mouse events, which are then treated as typical keyboard or mouse input. Enable SerialKeys from the General tab in Accessibility Options.

Microsoft provides a catalog of a wide range of assistive technology products that can be used with Windows XP Professional. Additional information is available about support services and documentation for users who are deaf or hard of hearing and for users who have difficulties reading or handling printed materials. This information and the catalog are available from the Microsoft Accessibility link on the Web Resources page at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/reskits/webresources, by voice telephone at 1-800-426-9400, or by writing to the Microsoft Sales Information Center, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington 98052-6399.

Additional Resources

These resources contain additional information and tools related to this appendix.

Related Information

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