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Accessibility Features in Microsoft Windows 8

Published: 2012-12-02 - Updated: 2021-06-22
Author: Thomas C. Weiss | Contact: Disabled World (Disabled-World.com)

Synopsis: Review of Microsoft Windows 8 operating system accessibility options and programs that make it easier for people to hear see and use a computer. Using Windows 8, several of the more commonly used accessibility options are available directly from the sign-in screen, to include Magnifier, Narrator, Sticky Keys, High Contrast and Filter Keys. Assistive technology products include software and specialty hardware products that provide essential accessibility to computers for people who experience significant hearing, vision, language, dexterity, or learning needs.

Main Digest

Windows 8 includes a number of accessibility options and programs that make it easier for people to hear, see, and use a computer including Personalization and Ease of Access options. The operating system has built-in assistive technologies that work with not only the operating system itself, but with Windows 8 applications and desktop software to provide people with seamless access to their Windows experience. One of the more exciting aspects of Windows 8 involves the introduction of touch devices. Using touch devices, people can interact directly with everything on their screen through touch and without the need to use a mouse or keyboard, to include management of accessibility options through the operating system's Ease of Access Center.


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Windows 8 Logo
Windows 8 Logo

At the time of writing Windows 8 is the current release of the Windows operating system, produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablets, and home theater PCs. Development of Windows 8 started before the release of its predecessor in 2009. Its existence was first announced at CES 2011, and followed by the release of three pre-release versions from September 2011 to May 2012. The operating system was released to manufacturing on 1 August 2012, and was released for general availability on 26 October 2012.

Using Windows 8, several of the more commonly used accessibility options are available directly from the sign-in screen, to include Magnifier, Narrator, Sticky Keys, High Contrast and Filter Keys. By clicking on the Ease of Access button available on the lower-left corner of the screen, people have the option to choose the settings they desire to have available to them every time they start their computer. More settings are available through the Ease of Access page.

From the Start screen, using the keyboard, people can open the page by pressing the Windows logo key+U combination. For those who have a touch-enabled device, swiping in from the right edge of the screen and then tapping, 'Search,' then entering, 'Ease of Access,' will produce the same results. For people who prefer to use a mouse, pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking, 'Search,' and entering, 'Ease of Access,' in the search box, tapping or clicking, 'Settings,' and the tapping or clicking, 'Ease of Access,' in the results that are presented will find them with a number of accessibility options available.

Windows 8 Accessibility Options

Assistive technology products include software and specialty hardware products that provide essential accessibility to computers for people who experience significant hearing, vision, language, dexterity, or learning needs. A number of assistive technology products are compatible with both Windows 8 and Windows 8 Professional. Accessibility products in versions of Windows 8 include:

Through the Ease of Access Center, people will find a section listing additional setting they can use to make their computer more usable and accessible to their particular needs. The settings are aimed at the specific needs people have in relation to the disability they experience. For example:

Windows 8 Narrator

The Windows 8 Narrator is a screen reader that reads aloud text appearing on the screen. It describes events such as error messages and Microsoft has redesigned it in Windows 8 to be substantially quicker, including a number of new features. Whether a person is blind, experiences low vision, or is fully sighted, they will be able to use Windows 8 from the moment they start their computer.

Windows 8 Magnifier

The Windows 8 Magnifier is a tool that enlarges a person's computer screen or portions of it, making the images and words easier for them to see. For people who experience low vision or who have difficulty seeing their computer or device, Magnifier can make it easier to see the screen or touch it. People who use touch-enable devices have the ability to control Magnifier from the edges of the screen and can easily enlarge or reduce the size of the Magnifier window by touching buttons on their screen.

Windows 8 On-Screen Keyboard

The Windows 8 On-Screen Keyboard is a tool people can use instead of depending upon a physical keyboard in order to type and enter data. Interestingly, a person does not need a touchscreen to use the On-Screen Keyboard. It displays a visual keyboard with all of the standard keys. People can select the keys using a mouse or another type of pointing device, or they may use a physical single key or group of keys to cycle through the keys presented on the screen.

Additional accessibility features available through Windows 8 include the following:

Using Speech Recognition

Using Windows Speech Recognition, people have the ability to command their computer with their own voice. They can compose documents and email, and surf the Web by dictating and speaking commands instead of using a keyboard or a mouse. Windows Voice Recognition can help people to use their own voice to accomplish things such as typing letters or filling out online forms. When a person speaks into their microphone, Speech Recognition changes their spoken words into text on their screen.

In order to dictate text using speech recognition using a touch-enable device, swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap, 'Search.' Enter, 'speech recognition,' into the search box, tap or click, 'Apps,' and then tap or click, 'Windows Speech Recognition.' Say, 'start listening,' or tap or click the Microphone button to start listening mode. Open the app you want to use, or select the text box you want to dictate text into, then say the text you want to dictate!

If you make a mistake you can correct it in three different ways. You can correct the last thing you said by saying, 'correct that.' You can correct a single work by saying, 'correct,' followed by the word you want to correct. If the word appears more than one time, all of the instances of the word will be highlighted and you can choose the one you want to correct. You can also choose the Alternates panel dialog box and say the number next to the item you want and then say, 'OK.'

If you want to add or change a word in your speech dictionary, you can do that as well! You can also stop a specific word from being dictated or corrected, or delete a word from the dictionary entirely. To accomplish these tasks swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap, 'Search.' Enter, 'speech recognition,' in the search box and tap or click, 'Apps,' and then tap or click, 'Windows Speech Recognition.' Say, 'start listening,' or tap or click the Microphone button to start the listening mode. Say, 'open Speech Dictionary,' and then do one of the following tasks:

Windows 8 Personalization

People who spend a lot of time using their computer have the opportunity to make it reflect who they are as a person and the things they care about. The Start screen and much more can be personalized in Windows 8 and people can arrange things to their particular liking. You can create tiles for your favorite people or websites, drag them anywhere you want, or even place similar tiles into their own groups. You can pin your favorite apps to the start screen and remove the ones you do not use. People even have the options to change their backgrounds and the colors on the Start screen to match the mood they are in at the moment.

About the Author

Thomas C. Weiss attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida.

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Cite Page: Journal: Disabled World. Language: English (U.S.). Author: Thomas C. Weiss. Electronic Publication Date: 2012-12-02 - Revised: 2021-06-22. Title: Accessibility Features in Microsoft Windows 8, Source: <a href=https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/computer/windows-8.php>Accessibility Features in Microsoft Windows 8</a>. Retrieved 2021-07-27, from https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/computer/windows-8.php - Reference: DW#160-9443.