Almost all computers and laptops come with built-in accessibility features as standard. This section gives an overview of the enhancements available for optimising computers and laptops for blind and partially sighted people.
Mainstream computers are becoming more and more accessible. Keyboard shortcuts can be especially useful for people who have trouble navigating screens or using a mouse. For example, in Windows, pressing the Windows logo and ‘u’ buttons together instantly opens the Ease of Access Centre.
Many computers come with embedded pre-installed accessibility software. All Macs come with VoiceOver screen reader and Zoom magnifier software.
Most new mainstream computers and laptops have Windows installed and come with Microsoft Narrator screen reader and Microsoft Magnifier installed as standard. Windows machines also feature options around changing colour contrast settings.
Specialist accessibility software can be loaded on to a mainstream computer or laptop.
Screen readers can provide access to any computer programme or online web browser by converting the visual information on the screen into speech. Alternatively, they can be set up to translate the information into braille format and communicate it to the user through a refreshable display. Screen readers can also work with touchscreens, speaking as the user places their finger on the monitor and alerting them as they touch over specific areas, icons or virtual buttons. This can enable the user to get a feel for the spatial layout of the screen that might otherwise be lost.
Screen magnifiers can provide precise, customisable magnification levels over targeted areas of the screen. When in ‘focus tracking mode’ the software zooms in around active text cursors, mouse pointers, menus or windows. Screen magnification is distinct from video magnification. Video magnification refers to tech where a camera is attached to a computer, so that captured images can be displayed on the monitor and enlarged or enhanced as required.
Speech recognition and dictation software enables audio interaction with your device, allowing you to dictate emails or letters and navigate the computer using voice commands.
See the section on Accessibility Software for more information on choices of software.
You can contact the RNIB Technology for Life coordinators for queries on technology. You can call 0303 123 9999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Microsoft Disability Answer Desk is a free helpline which offers support with Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office and using assistive technology.
Apple also offer a free accessibility support service for queries with any of their products. You can call 0800 048 0754 or email email@example.com.