Friday, June 14, 2013

PC Accessibility

This school year has been a tough one for me for sharing on this blog what we have done in the classroom and the ideas we shared for specific children. I not only had limited access to computers because I had no desk this year but there was twice as much paper work and data collection this year which has led to mostly the posting of articles I find in my travels and those that arrive in my email via Google Mail Search. I have not had access to Intellitools Classroom Suites except to share what I have posted 2 years ago or what  other teachers on the exchange site have posted. If I were using my own school computer, I would have been able to make specific activities for what I know my teachers of my kids are working on.

All of this has been frustrating as if I'm expected to help the children while keeping a novel's worth of paper work on 20+ children at nine schools in Henrietta, my "caroffice." Meanwhile, I've had to be concerned with a new evaluation system for teachers in our state; a system which the designers had no idea how to include or evaluate people who do what I do and was implemented before all the kinks were worked out. Like 99.9  % of my colleagues, we came to work with children and not all of this paper. But, enough of my grumbling.

I wanted to share some accessibility features that are already standard PCs. This is important because most of the schools use PC's Macs are available and have awesome features for our kids but when they go to the library or sit in classes with sighted peers, knowing how to access these accessibility features is crucial. Besides that, I find that my students who are in "regular" classes want to use whatever their peers use with accommodations rather than have an entirely different system.
This information also helps the teachers of my kids relax as they understand they don't need to have anything special installed on their computers that will crash them or make them unusable for the other students in their classes.

  • View: The view shortcut which enlarges print in documents and on most web sites is simply holding the control (CTRL) key while moving the mouse wheel in and out. You will see the print getting larger or smaller. It is easier than trying to click the "view" menu and works on older and newer models. This is the function my low vision kids like best because they don't have to use any different programs or special  VI equipment/attachments. In newer versions of Windows, particularly MS Office 2013 there is what is called the "ribbon" for enlarging and accessing other accommodating features. Click here for information and a tutorial on accessibility in MS Office 2013.
  • MicroSoft Narrator/Speech: In the recent past MS Narrator was  acceptable as something that was usable until one could get JAWS installed. If you cannot find it on one of your older model computers, it can be downloaded for free from the Microsoft web site. Now there is another speech application on the later versions of Windows. It  "hears" the typists voice and translates what he/she says into a microphone into print. There is also a version of Narrator for touch screen tablets and smart phones.
  • Contrast: If glare is an issue or if lighter backgrounds  wash out dark print one can tint the back ground color. I have a student with albinism who prefers to type in Ms Word with a pink background instead of white. Most of my other students prefer to make the fonts white or yellow on a black or dark blue background. 
  • On Screen Key Board:  allows the user to use the mouse to access an key board that is on the screen.
I found this page of accessibility features with downloads and video tutorials  called Microsoft Accessibility. Click here to get to it or type this into your browser:
A brief introduction to some of these most commonly used accessibility features are at this link:
Apple has a like page here:

I also like to teach the keyboard command strokes which can also be found on the Freedom Scientific web site for JAWS screenreader users. Here is a link to my school site for some of those commands:

I didn't mention tablets here except briefly but some of these and other features are in iPads and Android platform tablets, and smart phones but that's for another article. I wanted to address computer use in schools here.

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