Guide for Individuals with Dexterity and Mobility Impairments
Microsoft products include accessibility features and options that are useful, and sometimes essential, to people with dexterity and mobility impairments.
This guide describes accessibility features built into Windows 8 and Microsoft Office that are available to address mobility and dexterity impairments and preferences. You can also learn about the types of assistive technology products available to further assist you.
In this section:
- Make your computer easier to use
- Adjust accessibility settings from the Ease of Access Center
- Make the mouse easier to use
- Make the keyboard easier to use
- Type without using the keyboard (On-Screen Keyboard)
- Use speech recognition to operate windows and programs
- Make Microsoft Office programs easier to use
- Move around webpages easier with Internet Explorer
- Find assistive technology for mobility and dexterity impairments
With Windows 8 you can easily access the most commonly used accessibility options right from the sign-in screen. Select the Ease of Access button in the lower-left corner of your screen, or press the Windows logo key+U, to choose the settings for your PC that you want to have available each time it starts.
The Ease of Access Center is a convenient, central location where you can set up all of the accessibility settings and programs available in Windows, and "get recommendations" for suggested settings to fit your individual mobility and dexterity needs and preferences.
After log-in, you can access the Ease of Access Center by pressing the Windows logo key+U. On a touch-enabled device, swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search. Enter Ease of Access Center in the search box, tap or click Settings, and then tap or click Ease of Access Center in the results.
"Make your computer easier to use" screen in the Ease of Access Center
All of the Windows accessibility options most helpful for people with mobility and dexterity impairments who use the mouse are grouped into the Make the mouse easier to use section. You can learn how to choose the color and size of mouse pointers, turn on Mouse Keys, activate a window by hovering over it rather than clicking the mouse, and more.
"Make the mouse easier to use" screen in the Ease of Access Center
You can customize your mouse in a variety of ways. For instance, you can swap the functions of your mouse buttons, make the mouse pointer more visible, and alter the scroll speed of the mouse wheel.
If you have restricted arm, hand, or wrist movement you may benefit from Mouse Keys. With Mouse Keys, you can use the numeric keypad on your keyboard—instead of the mouse—to move the pointer.
Windows options helpful for people with mobility and dexterity impairments who use the keyboard are grouped in the Make the keyboard easier to use section. You can learn how to turn on Mouse Keys, Sticky Keys, Toggle Keys, and Filter Keys, and how to select additional options.
Keyboard shortcuts are combinations of two or more keys that, when pressed, can be used to perform a task that would typically require a mouse or other pointing device. Keyboard shortcuts can make it easier to interact with your computer, saving you time and effort as you work with Windows and other programs.
Customizing your keyboard settings can help you work more efficiently. By customizing the settings, you can select how long you need to press a key before the keyboard character starts repeating, the speed at which keyboard characters repeat, and the rate at which the cursor blinks.
"Make the keyboard easier to use" screen in the Ease of Access Center
On-Screen Keyboard displays a visual keyboard with all of the standard keys. Instead of relying on the physical keyboard to type and enter data, you can use On-Screen Keyboard to select keys using the mouse or another pointing device. On-Screen Keyboard in Windows can be resized and customized to make it easier to see and use. On-Screen Keyboard also includes text prediction in eight languages. When text prediction is enabled, as you type, On-Screen Keyboard displays a list of words that you might be typing. You can select the appropriate one. See also How to use the touch keyboard.
Speech Recognition in Windows 8 and Windows RT allows you to command your PC with your voice–including the capability to dictate into almost any application. You can dictate documents and email and surf the web by saying what you see. An easy setup process and an interactive tutorial are available to familiarize you with the speech commands and train your computer to better understand you.
Learn what you can do with Speech Recognition and how to set up Speech Recognition including how to set up your microphone, teach yourself how to talk to your computer, and train your computer to recognize your speech.
Speech Recognition screen in Control Panel: Ease of Access
Using a keyboard and mouse is not always possible or desirable for many people. With Windows 8 and Windows RT, if you've got a touch-screen monitor, you can just touch your computer screen for a more direct and natural way to work. Use your fingers to scroll, resize windows, play media, and pan and zoom. See also: How to use the touch keyboard.
Keyboard shortcuts in Microsoft Office products make it easier for people with mobility and dexterity impairments to interact with their computers while creating Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and more.
- Keyboard shortcuts for Word 2013
- Keyboard shortcuts for Outlook 2013
- Keyboard shortcuts for Excel 2013
- Keyboard shortcuts for PowerPoint 2013
- Keyboard shortcuts for Access 2013
- Keyboard shortcuts for Project 2013
Office Online provides support for assistive technologies such as screen readers and speech recognition software. Find more information on accessibility features and issues with Office Online.
Because Office Online runs in the browser, you can use your web browser's features that improve the readability of pages. Find out about vision related accessibility features in Internet Explorer.
Move around webpages with the keyboard
You can move around webpages quickly using the keyboard in Office Online.
- Keyboard shortcuts in Word Online
- Keyboard shortcuts in Excel Online
- Keyboard shortcuts in PowerPoint Online
- Keyboard shortcuts in OneNote Online
Accessibility in Internet Explorer lets you select text and move around a webpage with the keyboard. Enhanced keyboard access is found in the toolbar buttons, search box items, address bar, and tabs making surfing the Web quicker and easier for people with mobility and dexterity impairments.
Press the Tab key to move forward between screen elements and Shift+Tab to move backward. By pressing Tab or Shift+Tab, you can navigate through the parts of the screen.
You can shop for assistive technology products compatible with Microsoft Windows made by independent assistive technology companies. People who have dexterity and mobility impairments may be interested in the following assistive technology:
- Ergonomic keyboards and mice are designed to be more comfortable than a standard keyboard and mouse. To improve the quality and health of your PC experience, Microsoft designers and ergonomists created industry-leading keyboard and mouse products to encourage healthier hand and wrist positions. Microsoft Natural keyboards and mice have set the industry standard for comfort, and can significantly reduce carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Microsoft keyboards and mice also have built-in zoom and magnifier options.
- Joysticks can be plugged into the computer's mouse port and used to control the cursor on the screen. Joysticks benefit users who need to operate a computer with or without the use of their hands. For example, some people might operate the joystick with their feet or with the use of a cup on top of the joystick that can be manipulated with their chin.
- Trackballs look like an upside down mouse with a movable ball on top of a stationary base. The ball can be rotated with a pointing device or a hand. People who have fine motor skills but lack gross motor skills can use these devices more easily and comfortably than a traditional mouse.
- On-screen keyboards provide an image of a standard or modified keyboard on the computer screen. The user selects the keys with a mouse, touch screen, trackball, joystick, switch, or electronic pointing device. On-screen keyboards often have a scanning option. With the scanning capability turned on, the individual keys on the on-screen keyboard are highlighted. When a desired key is highlighted, the user is able to select it by using a switch positioned near a body part that he or she has under voluntary control. Learn about the On-Screen Keyboard features in Windows 8, Windows 7 and Windows Vista.
- Keyboard filters include typing aids, such as word prediction utilities and add-on spelling checkers. These products can often be used to reduce the number of required keystrokes. Keyboard filters enable users to quickly access the letters they need and to avoid inadvertently selecting keys they don't want.
- Touch screens are devices placed on the computer monitor (or built into it) that allow direct selection or activation of the computer by touching the screen. These devices can benefit some users with mobility impairments because they present a more accessible target. It is easier for some people to select an option directly rather than through a mouse movement or keyboard. Moving the mouse or using the keyboard for some might require greater fine motor skills than simply touching the screen to make a selection. Other users might make their selections with assistive technology such as mouth sticks. With Windows 7 and a touch-screen monitor, you can just touch your computer screen for a more direct and natural way to work. Use your fingers to scroll, resize windows, play media, and pan and zoom. Learn about Touch technology in Windows 8 and Windows RT, Windows 7 and Windows Vista.
- Alternative PC hardware and all-access workstations. In some cases, alternative PC hardware is needed. Some individuals with mobility impairments find it challenging to open the monitor of a laptop because the laptop latch isn't accessible for them. Or some students might need a laptop to be mounted on a wheelchair. Such assistive technology solutions are referred to as "all-access workstations."
- Alternative input devices (including alternative keyboards, electronic pointing devices, sip-and-puff systems, wands and sticks) allow individuals to control their computers through means other than a standard keyboard or pointing device.