10 June 2011

Making Windows Accessible

Making Microsoft Windows Accessible in Your School
Ten quick solutions to implement this summer...
1.       Shortcut to Accessibility Settings on your desktop
This is often “locked down” on school computers when it should be open to all.
a.       Create a desktop shortcut to the “Ease of Access Center” and allow your students to adjust their computers to their personal requirements, from cursor and keyboard response to alternative alerts.
b.      If students have individual log-ins their chosen settings will be retained for their use. If not the computer will re-set to the default settings with each new log-in.

2.     Shortcut to Speech Recognition on your desktop
Windows7 (and Windows Vista) have the finest Speech Recognition/Voice Dictation/Voice Control system available built in, all you have to do is make it available to students. There is significant evidence that students who struggle with writing can benefit from using Speech Recognition to get their ideas down quickly, and students with dexterity issues will benefit as well.
a.       This must work with individual student log-ins so that a student’s voice profile will be saved.
b.      Students will need to train the computer to their voice, you have to assist some students by whispering the training scripts to them, as their reading may not be accurate enough.
3.       Install the "MITS" accessible version of the Firefox Web Browser
a.       Firefox provides free accessibility options which are either not available or only available at great cost on other web browsers. In addition, most network administrators world-wide find that Firefox offers increased security from intrusive malware. It is completely free and has proven itself safe. Firefox 4 has already been installed over 200 million times this year alone.
b.      The Michigan Integrated Technology Supports has crafted a custom set of “add-ons” which make Firefox accessible. The primary set can be found at
This set adds many features which provide access to web browsing across the disability spectrum, including the FoxVox Text-To-Speech application.
You may also want to add:
FireVox http://www.firevox.clcworld.net/ which offers full blind access when installed
as well as
AnyDaisy https://launchpad.net/daisyextension the Bookshare-designed DAISY reader add-on for Firefox.

4.       Install Balabolka, a free Text Reading System
Balabolka is a new, free, Text-To-Speech system which reads with word-by-word highlighting (an important tool for building sightword recognition. http://www.cross-plus-a.com/balabolka.htm
There are hundreds of options and it is very easy to use with media player type controls.

5.       Install WordTalk if you use Microsoft Word
WordTalk is free software developed in the United Kingdom which turns Microsoft Word into a Talking Word Processor, with word-by-word highlighting. http://www.wordtalk.org.uk/Home/
An “add-in” toolbar allows students to listen to books pasted into Word or their own writing.

6.       Use the Ghotit online spell-check system
Designed for “dyslexics” and English-Language Learners, Ghotit.com offers an entire new level of spellchecking support. http://www.ghotit.com/home.shtml
Words are defined, and Ghotit allows spelling to be “way off.” (There are school network versions with teacher tools available.)

7.       Install PowerTalk for use with Microsoft PowerPoint
PowerTalk is a free program developed in the United Kingdom which makes Microsoft PowerPoint accessible, as it speaks the text on the slides. http://fullmeasure.co.uk/powertalk/
a.       You may want to have your staff review the advice offered in Creating Accessible Presentations. http://fullmeasure.co.uk/powertalk/#creatingpresentations

8.       Install GraphCalc, the free Windows graphing calculator
For over 15 years students have been using GraphCalc to make math more accessible. GraphCalc puts a full-featured graphing calculator right on the desktop, and allows students to record every step of their work, every part of every equation, and every graph they make, and transfer that (via copy/paste) into homework, classwork, quizzes, and exams (you can paste in Word Docs, Open Office docs, or Google Docs). http://www.graphcalc.com/
a.       SpeedCrunch http://www.speedcrunch.org/en_US/index.html is a simpler on-screen calculator, also free, and offers your students options based in their individual needs.
b.      The online talking calculator from PBS Kids http://pbskids.org/cyberchase/games/calculator/index.html offers another level of accessibility, and can easily be “bookmarked” in your school’s Firefox installation.

9.       Install AMIS, DAISY Playback Software
For use with Bookshare’s (free to schools for qualified students) books. http://www.daisy.org/projects/amis

10.   Install Click-N-Type, the free, adaptable, on-screen keyboard
Click-N-Type is a fully customizable on-screen keyboard for those with limited dexterity and other needs. You can change the size, the key layout, it can speak back what is typed (in many languages), it can change letter-forms when the shift-key is pressed, and it works perfectly in scanning/switch mode. http://www.lakefolks.org/cnt/

11. - Ira Socol


bigmaggie said...

Next year my department is going to one-to-one laptop classrooms, but we're getting Mac laptops. Are there similar accessibility options of Mac OS?

irasocol said...


I will do a similar Mac post soon, but short answer is, "no, with a but..."

It is much harder and much more expensive to offer similar access choices in Mac environments. You can buy Dragon Naturally Speaking for Speech Recognition, you can buy Read-and-Write-Gold for equivalent kinds of Text-To-Speech, we do have Mac Accessible Firefox at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/collections/ira-socol/32ffaa9b-8a8d-20cf-f764-4ee358/ but macs are much harder because of the very closed nature of Apple.

That said, the best resource for Mac access is http://atmac.org/ the work of Ricky Buchanan. She's my expert.

- Ira Socol

Free CRM said...

Next year my department is going to one-to-one laptop classrooms, but we're getting Mac laptops. Are there similar accessibility options of Mac OS?

Andy Banns said...

For quick access to the Ease of Access Centre in Windows 7 and to lots of other useful control panel type features, right click on your desktop and select 'new' and 'folder' and name your folder'GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}'. This will ceate a new control panel type folder with quick links to loads of useful features in windows