Windows to Accessibility
Clay Nichols, President-Bungalow Software
with Terri Nichols, MS, CCC-SLP
These are the notes used for an article which appeared in Advance for Speech and Language Pathologists in Sept 1998
Modern computers, in standard configuration, are effectively locked to people who can only type with one finger or have visual and motor deficits. Luckily, buried deep inside Windows 95™ are some features that can allow just about anyone, with a single finger and lots of patience, to fully utilize their Windows 95™ PC without any specialized hardware or software.
Disabled users may not be able use the mouse or multi-key commands (such as the famous <CTRL-ALT-DEL> used to reboot a computer). Some users might also have difficulty with the auto-repeat feature of the keyboard. Without perfect timing and coordination, and activation pressure, they might end up with a whole string of each letter they type. These are just some of the problems that might be encountered. Luckily, Windows 95™ includes tools to make the computer more accessible for the disabled. Best of all, these features are part of Windows 95™. You just have to find them.
This article will provide a breakdown of who can benefit from these features, how these features work, and how to get started using these features. This article is a starting point for someone seeking to make Windows 95™ more accessible.
There are two different methods that Windows 95™ can be modified for special needs user. The first is a group of functions designed for this purpose, called the "Accessibility Options". The second method is making the computer’s mouse easier to use by adjusting how it behaves.
The Accessibility Options primarily involve the use of the keyboard. They make it possible to use the keyboard instead of the mouse, or to type with only one finger, or to prevent an imprecise, weak or discoordinated hand from disrupting typing. They also provide adaptations for users with visual impairments.System Requirements
Accessibility Options come standard with Windows 95™. If, for some reason, a particular Windows 95™ PC does not have these options installed, they can be quickly installed. Note that you may need your Windows 95™ installation disk(s). This article will guide you through some of those options, and provide references to additional resources.
The techniques in this article apply to the Microsoft Windows 95™ operating system. This article is intended only as an introduction to these features. For more detailed explanations of these and other Accessibility Options, a comprehensive document, in MS Word™ format, can be found in our Accessibility Resources
While this article is aimed at Windows 95™™, much of the information on Accessibility Options also applies to Windows 3.x™ and Windows 98™. Refer to our Accessibility Resources for links to Microsoft resources.
Table 1, below, illustrates several impairments and the Windows 95™ feature(s) which would be appropriate.
Table 1: Accessibility Needs and Solutions
|Difficulty holding the mouse steady while double-clicking.|
- Decreased fine motor control
- Decreased attention
|Easier alternative to the mouse.||A trackball is much easier to use. More>>|
|cannot use the mouse|
- Decreased fine motor control
- Decreased attention.
|Keyboard alternative to the mouse.||MouseKeys|
Lets the user control the screen cursor with the numeric keypad.
|Unable to press multiple keys simultaneously (e.g., CTRL-ALT-DEL), e.g., the user types with a single finger or a "headstick"|
- Severely decreased gross and fine motor control
|Ability to activate several keys at once (e.g., SHIFT-F7, etc.) with only one finger (or "headstick", etc.)||StickyKeys |
This allows the user to temporarily ‘lock’ one or more keys so that the keys are activate simultaneously, using just one finger.
|User presses a key repeatedly, or holds it down too long, causing the key to repeat.|
- Decreased fine motor control
- Decreased attention
- Pervious experience as a typist on a manual typewriter.
|Prevent the keyboard from responding multiple times in rapid succession or repeating a key that is held down too long.||FilterKeys – Ignore repeated keystrokes, slow down the repeat rate. |
Prevents the computer from responding to the user ‘bouncing’ on one key, pressing it repeatedly.
|Difficulty with brushing keys accidentally, or pressing 2 keys at once.||Decreased fine motor control or coordination |
|Prevent the keyboard from responding to the user brushing against a key accidentally.||FilterKeys – Ignore quick keystrokes. |
This causes the computer to respond only to a key when the user holds it down for a second or so. If they initially press 2 keys simultaneously it allows them to adjust their position to just the primary key.
|Can’t read the icons or menu bars in Windows programs||Decreased visual perception||High contrast screen||High Contrast Display |
Causes most programs to be displayed in reverse video (white letters on dark background) in a larger size)
You can access these Options by doing the following:
- On the Start menu, choose Settings, and then select Control Panel (refer to Diagram 1)
Diagram 1: Getting to the Control Panel
- Choose the Accessibility Options icon (shown in Diagram 2). The Options will be displayed, as shown in Diagram 3. If there is no Accessibility Options icon, refer to the directions, at the end of this article, on Installing the Windows 95™ Accessibility Options.
Diagram 2: Getting to the Accessibility Options icon
Diagram 3: Accessibility Options
Tip: Each Accessibility Option must be enabled (turned on), then activated.
The keyboard can be used, in lieu of the mouse, to control the screen cursor with MouseKeys..
Enable MouseKeys by selecting, within the Accessibility Options, the Mouse tab (see Diagram 3). Check the MouseKeys box. To adjust the settings (highly recommended) click on the Settings button. This will allow you to adjust the cursor speed and acceleration. Play with the settings a bit to get them just right. The author has found that a top speed of about 60% and an acceleration of about 90% work well, but individual mileage may vary. The effects of any settings changes can be tested by clicking OK then, in the Accessibility Properties window, clicking the Apply button.
As demonstrated in Diagram 4, the numeric keys will be used to control the mouse movement, e.g., the ‘8’ key will move up, the ‘2’ will move down, etc.
|Diagram 4: Numeric Keypad|
Use the 5 key for a single mouse-button click. To double-click, press the 5 key twice or the plus sign (+) key once.
Tip: To cause the pointer to "jump" across large sections of the screen, hold down the CTRL key while using the movement.
All too often, computers require that several keys be pressed at the same time, such as SHIFT+4 to get "$". This would normally be impossible for someone typing with a headstick or single finger. StickyKeys solves this problem.
Enable StickyKeys by choosing the Keyboard tab in the Accessibility Options and checking the StickyKeys box and pressing the Apply button.
Activate StickyKeys by pressing the shift key 5 times. A confirmation sound will be made, and confirmation message will be displayed. Just press the <enter> key to accept this confirmation. When you activate, deactivate, or use the StickyKeys, confirmation tones will be played. Don’t be alarmed. You can turn off the sounds in the Accessibility Options.
To deactivate StickyKeys, press any two of the modifier keys simultaneously, e.g., CONTROL, ALT, ENTER.
- Press one of the modifier keys (CONTROL, ALT, ENTER). A confirmation tone will sound.
- The modifier key will ‘stick’ until a non-modifier key is pressed, or the modifier key is pressed twice more.
- Make a modifier key stay stuck (locked) by pressing it twice.
FilterKeys can be useful for someone who routinely brushes into the wrong key(s) or holds keys down too long (causing that key to be repeated). The FilterKeys features are a bit complex, so if you intend to use them with a client, plan to spend some time exploring the features.
Enable these features by going to the Accessibility Options and choosing the Keyboard tab and checking the FilterKeys option. Click the settings button to adjust the individual features.
FilterKeys consists of three features:
- BounceKeys ignores keys that are pressed more than once too quickly. To activate, go to the FilterKeys settings and choose Ignore Repeated Keystrokes. Adjust the settings as desired.
- RepeatKeys adjusts or disables the keyboard repeat rate.
- SlowKeys ignores keys that are pressed accidentally or for a short time.
RepeatKeys and SlowKeys are used together, to allow someone to type very slowly and ponderously. To activate these two features, go to the FilterKeys settings and choose the "Ignore Quick Keystrokes…" option. Click on the <Settings> button and adjust the RepeatKeys and SlowKeys options as desired.
If the Accessibility Options icon is not visible in the Control Panel, it can be installed by doing the following:
- On the Start menu, select Settings, and then select Control Panel (refer to Diagram 1)
- Choose the Add/Remove Programs icon.
- On the Windows Setup tab, select the check box for Accessibility Options to mark it for installation.
- Choose OK, and then follow the instructions on your screen.
If for some reason, the Accessibility Options cannot be installed using the above, the Accessibility Options can be downloaded (free) via the internet by following the link for the appropriate operating system (Windows 3.1, Windows 95, or Windows 98) at:
"Double-Clicking" refers to rapidly clicking the mouse button. A single-click is used to select and a double-click is used to activate programs and features. The computer must distinguish between two individual clicks and a double-click which it does by measuring the time and distance between two clicks. If the two clicks occurred at about the same time and very close together on the screen, the computer considers this a double-click. But what happens when a client cannot hold her hand steady while double clicking. Her "double-click" might look, to the computer, like two individual clicks because the clicks (or even a click-and-drag, moving the icon) weren’t close enough in time and space. This might seem to be a trivial problem but remember, double-clicking is critical to using many Windows™ programs.
The mouse sensitivity settings are not part of the "Accessibility Options" (but they should be!). Recalibrating how close two clicks must be (in time and distance) to be considered a ‘double click’ reduces the mouse’s sensitivity. Unfortunately, Windows 95 provides a setting only for the speed of the double click. Luckily, Bungalow Software provides a free program to adjust both settings.
MouseTamer: Free software to adjust speed and distance sensitivity
You can download the MouseTamer from our website.
Follow the instructions on how to download and install a program which will allow you to change your computer’s mouse sensitivity. It is also possible to adjust just the double-click speed using the instructions below. Therapists have found that is usually necessary to adjust both the speed and distance sensitivity of the mouse.
Adjusting the double-click speed
This method allows you to adjust only the speed of the double-click, not the distance between clicks..
Adjust the Double-Click Speed Adjust the mouse double-click speed by going to Start | Settings | Control | Mouse Select the "Buttons" tab.
Note: There are different versions of computer mice, so the mouse double-click speed may be located on a different tab.Adjust the double-click speed to slower. Test with the client. Adjust as necessary.
This features reverses the color scheme of the monitor display, and enlarges the font sizes of menu bars displayed on the monitor. See Diagrams 5 and 6 for an actual comparison of the same program viewed with the normal and High Contrast displays. For many users, displaying white letters on a black background is easier than reading black letters on a white, blue, or gray background. However, be forewarned that the High Contrast display works best with Microsoft programs (e.g., Microsoft Word™ ), which all use the same standard color scheme.
Enable this feature by choosing the "Display’ tab" in the Accessibility Options, and checking "High Contrast".
|Diagram 5: Normal Display|
|Diagram 6: High Contrast display|
|Note the larger menu text and reverse-video (white text on dark background.|
The Accessibility Options can confuse a user who isn’t expecting them to be there. If the computer will be shared between users who want the Accessibility Options and those who do not, you can make the transition between users easier. The Accessibility Options are set, by default (in the General tab), to ‘timeout’ or expire after a period of inactivity. To reactivate the Options, use the shortcut key appropriate for each feature.
Many of the Accessibility Options also show an icon in the taskbar’s icon tray, located in the lower right corner of the screen (next to the time display).
|Table 2: Shortcut Keys to activate Accessibility Options|
|To turn on this option||Press the following keys|
|StickyKeys||shift five times|
|MouseKeys||Left alt + left shift + num lock|
|FilterKeys, with default settings||Hold down right shift for eight seconds|
|ToggleKeys||Hold down num lock for five seconds|
Tip: If the computer will always be used with the Accessibility Options, the author recommends disabling the timeout period in the Accessibility Options’ General tab.
General information on using computers with the disabled is available at: http://www.microsoft.com/enable/intro/default.htm
Official Microsoft documentation on the Accessibility Options, in Microsoft Word 97 format, is available as a self-extracting file from http://www.microsoft.com/enable/download/ww1062.exe
Browse to the above web address and download the file. Then run the file (ww1062.exe). It will expand into a Microsoft Word document.
New to downloading? We have some tips on downloading software on our website.
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Clay Nichols is president of Bungalow Software, which develops and markets software for Speech/Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, and their patients. He can be reached via
Terri B. Nichols is a Speech/Language Pathologist at Providence Portland Medical Center in Portland, Oregon. She can be reached via: