Assistive Technology Blog: Accessibility Features on My Computer

I use a computer with Windows 7.  There are four assistive technology tools available. There is also an Ease of Access Center that has seven features.

Assistive Technology

Magnifier – Magnifier allows the use to magnify part of the screen.  I am familiar with this technology because my wife has vision issues and uses this feature.  There are three settings:  full screen, lens and docked.  Full screen makes the whole screen larger by a chosen percent.  Lens places an on-screen magnifying lens that moves with the cursor.  Docked splits the screen and has a magnified version at the top.

Narrator – Narrator reads the text on your screen.  Another tool for people with vision issues or reading difficulties.  As someone who likes to hear the words that I am reading, I thought this would be a helpful tool for me, but I have yet to figure out how to get it to work right.  All it will read is the narrator window or the Ease of Access panel.  I have never gotten it to work on a word document or a website.  In researching on the Internet, it appears this is a common problem that was never fixed by Microsoft.  If you need a screen reader, I would suggest finding another one.

On-Screen Keyboard – I have typed this sentence with the on-screen keyboard.  If you do not have or can not use a keyboard, it is a helpful tool.  However, unless you have a touch screen, it is very time consuming.

High Contrast – This is another tool for people with vision issues.  This will heighten the contrast of items on the screen to make them more distinct from others.  It changes to white text on a black background, which is handy when working in very bright area (such as outdoors).

Ease of Access Center

The Ease of Access Center allows the user to make adjustments to the computer for the following purposes:

  • Use the computer without a display
  • Make the computer easier to see
  • Use the computer without a mouse or keyboard
  • Make the mouse easier to use
  • Make the keyboard easier to use
  • Use text or visual alternative for sound
  • Make it easier to focus on tasks –

There are features designed for people who are blind, like text to speech and audio description.  I have used text to speech before (because I never learned to touch type) and it is helpful.  Speech recognition can also be used to control the computer without a mouse.  To use this tool, you need to train your computer to understand your voice.  From what I could find, audio description tells what is happening in a video, but only if the video has an audio description track. There are other features to help people who have other vision difficulties like color blindness and farsightedness.  They allow you to change the thickness of the focus rectangle and the blinking cursor, turn off unnecessary animations and remove background images.  You can also change the cursor’s color and size.

Just as there are accessibility features for those with vision issues, there some for those with hearing impairments.  Visual notifications can replace sound and text captions can be displayed for multimedia presentations.

There are functions available for managing your keyboard and mouse or even using your computer without a keyboard and mouse.  You can turn on the mouse keypad to control the mouse and manage access to windows, like preventing windows from automatically resizing when moved to the edge of the screen.  This is helpful for people who have difficulty using a mouse.  Sticky, toggle and filter keys can be activated and you can adjust the keyboard shortcuts to make them easier to use.  Sticky keys allow you to assign multiple key controls to just one key.  This is would benefit people who may have only one hand available to them.  Toggle keys send alerts to notify the user that certain keys were pressed that turned on features that might be unwanted.  Filter keys benefit those with unsteady hands by ignoring repetitive keystrokes or ones held down too long.

References

Setting accessibility options in Windows 7. (n.d.). its-knowledge01.campus.ad.csulb.edu. Retrieved from  <https://its-knowledge01.campus.ad.csulb.edu/display/help/Setting+Accessibility+Options+in+Windows+7>.

What accessibility features does Windows offer? – Microsoft Windows Help.” (n.d.). windows.microsoft.com. Retrieved from  <http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/what-accessibility-features-windows-offer#1TC=windows-7>.

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School Evaluation Summary

REFLECTION

I expected this to be one of my more difficult assignments due all the writing involved.  When I first started, those expectations seemed confirmed.  My initial thought was that two weeks wasn’t going to be enough; I would need that much time to fret over how hard it was going to be.  However, once I got going, the project- while no means simple – became less daunting.

Rating each section and subsection would seem the easiest par for a numbers guy.  Some of the areas fell out of my level of knowledge or expertise.  Those were the Administrative and the Connectivity.  In order to better understand them and accurately rate them, I talked to others at my institution.

Once the ratings were completed, I knew I had to justify them in the summary.  I knew why I rated each area as I did, but communicating it in a written summary was going to be  a task.  I started with the easiest ones, Curricular and Support.  I felt I knew these ones best as they most pertained to my position.  As I completed each section, I had more faith in my ability to do the others.

KNOWLEDGE GAINED

Upon reading the summaries of others, I discovered that I was not alone in feeling that we are not utilizing technology efficiently.  Many classmates shared similar feelings of frustration with their schools’ technology standing.  In some ways, I began to realize that my school was even ahead of many others in some ways.  We have Promethean Boards that allow for much application of technology.  We have more access for students to computers.

DESTINATION

My initial reason for seeking a Masters of Educational Technology was to be able to better use technology in the class room.  After this first course, I believe it would be more beneficial to convince my school to develop a technology department that could support the teaching staff.  That would require being able to convey the necessity of such a department through a process much like this evaluation.  I believe that I have gotten a start in that direction.  Hopefully, by the time I graduated, I will have a finish to go with that start.

SUMMARY

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SPREADSHEET

https://docs.google.com/a/u.boisestate.edu/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AscO3dSZ2U9KdEw4WGJFOGF0ZkZuZDkxb05rY2dESUE#gid=0

Ethical Issues in Educational Technology

The most current assignment was to do a VoiceThread on Digital Inequality.  This was group project.  My group consisted of Ron Gardiner, Mike Procyk, Beth Russell, Brian O’Neill and me.  This is the link to the VoiceThread:

http://voicethread.com/#q.b2752878

The scenario we were given is that our group are members of a Digital Inequality Task Force hired by our State Superintendent of Public Instruction to make recommendations on how to best utilize a special allocation of $50M to address digital inequalities in the state.

This was a three-week project.  The first week involved a lot of reading about Digital Inequality.  I mean A LOT OF READING.  By the end of the week, we were discussing our thoughts on Digital Inequality and the options given to us.  At times, it seemed like we would never come to an agreement as there was much debate (especially between Mike and me) over the options.  However, all of us maintained a civility that is uncommon today in many debates.  Turns out, Mike and I actually were in more agreement than we initially believed.  From our discussion, we came up with a ranking order of the 7 options.

The second week was dedicated to planning our presentation.  I felt the first priority was to elect a group leader who would keep track of what needed done and delegate assignments.  I nominated Ron because I believe he had the best grasp of the issue from the previous week’s discussions.  Plus, being a former military person, I know he had experienced leading diverse groups.  Ron was agreeable and no one else stated any objections.

Ron started by creating an agenda that everyone began to add to.  Well, almost everyone.  Turns out there are TWO Brian O’Neill’s at Boise State and we had the wrong one to start.  Once we figured that out, we contacted the correct Brian and he quickly got on board.  Amazingly enough, the group was so well in sync with one another, that whenever someone posted an addition to the agenda, it was accepted by the group as being an appropriate step.

The final week was the creation of the VoiceThread.  Ron started the thread by creating a power point presentation.  Everyone added to it, just like the agenda.  I was delegate as production chief, so I kept track of where we were and assigned commentary roles within the thread.  Also, we had a checklist for the rubric to make sure we didn’t forget any required procedure.

This project started off slow for me.  At times I was frustrated when things were not going smoothly.  The group, especially Beth, kept me in check and focused on the task.  In the end, I think our group created a well thought out presentation.  Not any easy task when we had one member 9 hours ahead of us and another (after we found the right one) 3 hours behind.  We literally covered half the world.

When Dr. Gardner first developed groups, I asked if they would change for different projects.  He said he wasn’t planning on it, but would consider it.  Well, Doc, I changed my mind.  I think our group meshes well together and I would like to finish the semester with them (no offense to the other classmates in other groups).