Accessibility in Windows 7

Windows 7 includes accessibility options and programs that make it easier to see, hear, and use your computer including ways to personalize your PC. Magnifier in Windows 7 includes a lens mode and full-screen mode. On-Screen Keyboard can be resized to make it easier to see and includes text prediction. Windows 7 also gives you more ways to interact with your PC by taking advantage of new strides in speech recognition and touch technology. Compare accessibility in Windows and find the Guide to transitioning to Windows 7 for people with disabilities.

Ease of Access Center

The Ease of Access Center provides a convenient, centralized place to locate accessibility settings and programs to make your computer easier to use. The Ease of Access Center can be found in the Control Panel by selecting Windows logo key+U and also when logging into Windows.

The Ease of Access Center includes:

Screen shot of the Make your computer easier to use screen in Control Panel
Screen shot of the Ease of Access Center open on screen with a demo video launch icon on top
View demo of the Ease of Access Center in Windows 7
Photo of group of people around a laptop viewing accessibility options in Windows 7
View this video
of people exploring the accessibility features in Windows 7

Make things on screen appear bigger with Magnifier

Magnifier enlarges portions of the screen making it easier to view text and images and see the whole screen more easily. Magnifier in Windows 7 now includes full-screen mode, lens mode, and docked mode.

The magnification quality is improved and you can set the magnification level up to 16 times the original size and choose to track what you magnify by movement of your mouse, the keyboard, or text editing.

The online video and how-to guide for Magnifier in Windows 7 shows how to:

  • Choose where Magnifier focuses so that it follows the movement of the mouse cursor, keyboard focus, or text editing
  • Change the zoom level
  • Set the zoom increment
  • Set the lens size
  • Turn on color inversion for better screen legibility
  • Display the Magnifier toolbar

Screen shot of the Magnifier window open on screen

Screen shot of Magnifier open on screen with video launch icon on top
Demo and How-to Guide to Magnifier shows how to make things on the screen bigger and easier to see

Type without using the keyboard (On-Screen Keyboard)

On-Screen Keyboard displays a visual keyboard with all 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 7 can be resized and customized to make it easier to see and use. On-Screen Keyboard now 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.

The online video and how-to guide for On-Screen Keyboard in Windows 7 shows how to:

  • Change how information is entered into On-Screen Keyboard
  • Select a layout for On-Screen Keyboard
  • Change the font for On-Screen Keyboard keys
  • Set On-Screen Keyboard to use audible clicks
  • Enable text prediction in On-Screen Keyboard
Screen shot of On-Screen Keyboard
Screen shot of the On-Screen Keyboard open on screen with a video launch icon on top
Demo and How-to Guide

Hear text read aloud with Narrator

Windows comes with a basic screen reader called Narrator, which reads aloud text on the screen and describes some events (such as error messages appearing) that happen while you're using the computer.

You can find Narrator in the Ease of Access Center.

To open Narrator, click the Start button, type "Narrator" in the search box, then select Narrator from the list of results.

Screen shot of the Narrator preferences dialog box

The online video and how-to guide for Narrator in Windows 7 shows how to:
  • Choose which text Narrator reads aloud
  • Change the Narrator voice
  • Start Narrator minimized

Personalization

Add a personal touch to your computer by changing the computer's colors, sounds, desktop background, screen saver, font size, and user account picture. You can also decide which gadgets to display on your desktop.

Desktop background—(also called wallpaper) is a picture or design on the desktop. It provides a backdrop to your open windows.

Colors—You can change the color of windows, window borders, title bars, menus, the desktop, and more.

Sounds—You can change the sound your computer makes when you receive email, start Windows, or shut down your computer.

Screen saver—A screen saver is a picture or animation that appears on the screen when you haven't used the mouse or keyboard for a specified period of time. Windows includes a variety of screen savers to choose from.

Font size—You can make the text, icons, and other items on your screen easier to see by increasing the dots per inch (DPI) scale to make them larger. You can also decrease the DPI scale to make text and other items on your screen smaller, so that more information fits on the screen.

User account picture—A user account picture helps identify your account on a computer. The picture is displayed on the Welcome screen and on the Start menu. You can change your user account picture to one of the pictures included with Windows, or you can use your own.

Desktop gadgets—Desktop gadgets are customizable mini-programs that can display continuously updated information, such as headlines or a slide show, without having to open a new window.

Illustration of the sound volume slider on screen with a video launch icon on top
Adjust the sound level on your computer
Screen shot of the Change the colors of your windows borders, Start menu, and Taskbar screen open with a video launch icon on top
Change on-screen colors

Make text on your screen larger or smaller

You can make the text and other items on your screen, such as icons, easier to see by making them larger. You can do this without changing the screen resolution of your monitor or laptop screen. This allows you to increase or decrease the size of text and other items on your screen while keeping your monitor or laptop set to its optimal resolution.

Screen shot of the Make it easier to read what's on your screen control panel
Video launch icon for the Make the text on your screen larger or smaller demo
Demo and How-To Guide to make the text on your screen larger or smaller

Interact with your PC with Speech Recognition

Speech Recognition in Windows 7 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.

Also explore how to:

 

Windows Touch

While great for a lot of tasks, using a keyboard and mouse is not always the easiest way to do things. With Windows 7, 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.

Screen shot of computer screen with photo files displayed

Assistive technology products for Windows

Assistive technology products are specialty hardware and software products that provide essential accessibility to computers for those with significant vision, hearing, dexterity, language, or learning needs. Many assistive technology products are compatible with Windows. Find more information about selecting and shopping for assistive technology products for Windows.

Overview of accessibility features in Windows 7

Feature Description
Ease of Access Center
Provides a centralized location in the Control Panel where you can adjust accessibility settings and programs. You can also get recommendations for settings to make your PC easier to see, hear, and use.
Magnifier
Magnifies the screen or a portion of the screen to make text, images, and objects easier to see.
On-Screen Keyboard
A visual, on-screen keyboard with all the standard keys that you can use instead of a physical keyboard. On-Screen Keyboard also lets you type and enter data with a mouse or other pointing device.
Narrator
Reads aloud on-screen text and describes some events (such as error messages appearing) that happen while you're using the computer.
Speech Recognition
Enables you to interact with your computer using only your voice while maintaining, or even increasing, your productivity.
Font Size
Lets you make text and objects larger and easier to see without losing graphics quality.
Personalization
You can add a personal touch to your computer by changing the computer's theme, color, sounds, desktop background, screen saver, font size, and user account picture. You can also select specific gadgets for your desktop.
Touch
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.
Keyboard shortcuts
Keyboard 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.
Sticky Keys
Instead of having to press three keys at once (such as when you must press the CTRL, ALT, and DELETE keys simultaneously to log on to Windows), you can press one key at a time when Sticky Keys is turned on.
Mouse Keys
Instead of using the mouse, you can use the arrow keys on the numeric keypad to move the pointer.
Filter Keys
Ignore keystrokes that occur in rapid succession and keystrokes that are held down for several seconds unintentionally.
Visual Notifications
Replace system sounds with visual cues, such as a flash on the screen, so system alerts are announced with visual notifications instead of sounds.
Captions
Get information via animations and video that some programs use to indicate that activity is happening on your computer.