Earlier this month, WATAP’s Assistive Technology Specialists, Maria Kelley and Gaby de Jongh, were busy presenting on the built-in accessibility features of Windows 8 on the Surface tablet. The trainings included how to locate and initiate the Ease of Access programs and address situations where using the built-in features would be appropriate for consumers with disabilities. Two back-to-back presentations were held at the SW Washington Special Education conference with 30 parents and educators from the south west part of the state. At the NW Washington Assistive Technology Interest Group meeting thirty two K-12 and higher education professionals from the northern part of the state learned how accessibility of Widows 8 could benefit their students.
For a number of the participants, learning that these free options were available in the operating system they already used was great news. Our AT Specialists answered questions from educators and parents on how to utilize the magnification and high contrast features in conjunction with other software programs for individuals with low vision. One educator wanted specific information on how Narrator, Windows built-in screen reader, could be beneficial for an individual with a learning disability. Our AT Specialists were able to provide her with information about how she could use speech output as an alternative method for accessing printed material.
One individual shared their own experience with built-in Speech Recognition, and how they were able to use dictation for composing emails and editing documents as they were unable to use a keyboard effectively due to suffering a sprained wrist. When one of our AT Specialists asked if they used Speech Recognition to launch programs and navigate around the screen using their voice instead of a mouse, the individual didn’t realize the program had that capability but was excited to try it out.
The built-in accessibility features of the Windows Operating system have successively improved with each iteration. And while many third party software programs offer accessibility where there may not have been before, the built-in features make it more cost effective and available for everyone to use.