Windows ease of access tools settings and their functions

windows ease of access tool with narrator, on screen keyboard speech and magnifier

Microsoft Windows operating system offers ease of access or accessibility tools that help to navigate the computer for physically challenged computer users. They make use of computers more user-friendly for those people who have challenges using normal input and output devices. They can also be used by other users since they make using computers simple.

The main tools that are found on the windows operating system are classified into 3 vision, hearing, and interaction. These types of tools are display, mouse pointer, text cursor, magnifier, colour filters, high contrast, narrator, audio, closed captions, speech, keyboard, mouse, and eye control tools.

How to open ease of accessibility tools in windows 10

Open Settings > Ease of access and you will be presented with the windows below. The keyboard shortcut to open ease of access settings is Windows key + U.

windows ease of access tools, shows the settings

Categories of ease of access tools in windows

The interface gives 3 categories of tools with a total of 13 tools. These include

  1. Vision: These are tools that help to improve how users see different components on the screen. They deal with display, pointer, color, etc. 
    1. Display
    2. Mouse pointer
    3. Text cursor
    4. Color filters
    5. High contrast
    6. Narrator
  2. Hearing: tools are used to audio commands more audible.
    1. Audio
    2. Closed captions
  3. Interactions: tools that help users interact with computers using speech, computer mouse, keyboard, and eye control motions.
    1. Speech 
    2. Keyboard
    3. Mouse
    4. Eye control

We will discuss the ease of access tools and give their functions below.

Functions of windows ease of access tools

Each of the 13 tools has a unique function that they are meant to achieve to help user access and use windows better.

  1. Display: this is an ease-of-access setting that can be used to increase the font size, change brightness and show transparency.
  2. Mouse pointer: it is used to change cursor size and color
mouse pointer on ease of access tool settings
  1. Text cursor: it is used to change the appearance of the cursor. You can change cursor indicator size, color, and thickness. This makes the cursor more visible to the user.
text cursor indicator ease tool, to change colour, indicator size and width
  1. Magnifier: it is used to magnify the currently selected screen. To open the magnifier use the shortcut Windows key + plus sign (+). To close Windows key + Esc.
windows ease of access tool magnifier
  1. Colour filters: used to add color filters to the screen. The primary filters that users can select are inverted, greyscale, and greyscale inverted. It also offers more colors that can be used to create filters.
  2. High contrast: it is used to change the color contrast of different components of a page to make them more clear. The contrast is applied to areas such as text, hyperlinks, disabled text, selected text, button text, and background.
high contrast ease access tools. to change text, hyperlinks, selected text and background contrast
  1. Narrator: it can be used to narrate what is on the screen using voice. It can be used when a user cannot see but can listen. Microsoft supports the use of a braille display together with the narrator, but you will need to install related software. Use narrator shortcut Windows key + Ctrl + N.
Windows speech recognition tool. listening to sound
  1. Audio: it is used to make the device easier to hear by changing the volume from low to high and vice versa.
  2. Closed captions: it is used to replace the audio with a text caption.
  3. Speech: it activates windows speech recognition where you can give instructions to the computer by voice input. It requires a computer to have a microphone connected to enable voice input. The shortcut for speech recognition activation is Windows + Ctrl + S. Windows allows using of dictation, to activate it, use the shortcut Windows + H.
  4. Keyboard: it makes it easy to work without the physical computer keyboard. It uses an On-screen keyboard which is a full keyboard with all keys where a user uses a pointing device such as a mouse to key-in data. The shortcut for the On-screen keyboard is the Windows key + Ctrl + O.
on screen keyboard tool

Other options offered under this tool are:

  1. Use of sticky keys: used to enable the use of one key instead of combination keys for shortcuts. It makes keys such as Ctrl remain active “pressed” even when they are not pressed.
  2. Use Toggle keys: help produce sound when you press any of the toggle keys such as CAPS LOCK,  NUM LOCK, and SCROLL LOCK
  3. Use filter keys: it is used to ignore by filtering some keystrokes that were not intended. It can be used to filter slow, repeat, and bounce keys 
  4. Change how keyboard shortcut work
  5. Print screen shortcut
  1. Mouse: the tool is used when you don’t have a physical mouse. It helps to control mouse moves by the use of the numeric keypad.
  2. Eye control: to use this tool you need to have additional hardware that can support eye tracking. It can be used to control the mouse by use of eye movements

Advantages of using ease of access tools

  1. Users can key in data without a physical keyboard by use of an onscreen keyboard.
  2. By using of magnifier users can view content that has a small font size.
  3. A computer user can navigate by use of voice commands.
  4. Using a voice recognition system users can type documents faster than typing on a physical keyboard.
  5. They make physically challenged users more comfortable using computers. The interface becomes more user-friendly to them.

Disadvantages of using ease of access tools

  1. Some tools like eye control require third-party software and hardware to be installed for them to work.
  2. Voice recognition system requires is not advanced enough to be fully depended on for giving commands. It has limited commands and languages that it can recognize.
  3. A tool like a narrator cannot read all types of documents especially if they have images and videos.