A computer with a standard keyboard, mouse and screen can be a barrier to many disabled people.

MyComputerMyWay provides step-by-step instructions on how to make your existing computer more accessible. It also shows how to use built-in accessibility options on your mobile phone and tablet.

Keyboarding – alternatives to using a standard keyboard

Not everyone can learn to touch type. People with low vision may prefer to see the keys to enable them to control and input information. Unfortunately, the letters on a standard computer keyboard are small and can be difficult to see.

A simple and cheap option is to cover your existing keyboard with stickers that have good colour contrast and larger letters, available from RNIB and Inclusive Technology.

Some people may prefer an alternative keyboard with high visibility keys or a keyboard that has larger keys with high visibility, to enable them to locate keys accurately.

For high visibility and larger key keyboards, try Keyboard Specialists.

Some keyboards work with specific software programs for people with a visual impairment. These include the Dolphin Large Print, which features large print, high contrast keys and shortcuts to useful features. 

Another option for blind users is a Braille display. Although these can be expensive, they serve a dual function. Using just a few keys, competent Braille users can enter data, read documents, web pages and email.

Seek advice and guidance from a specialist supplier such as Humanware UK and Sight and Sound UK to choose the right Braille device for you. Ask for a demo of the equipment and a free trial.

Using your voice to operate the computer may be a viable alternative for people who are unable to type. But blind users can find voice control difficult to learn and operate successfully so only use it if you have to. Even for people with limited dexterity, using an alternative keyboard might be a more practical option for inputting text.

Screen resolution, image size, contrast and colour

Screen resolution determines the size of the dots that make up the images you view on screen. High resolution screens present sharper but smaller images – so people with low vision may find a lower resolution of 800 x 600 pixels useful. This will make text, icons and menu options larger and easier to see. Adjusting the screen contrast and brightness can also help.

Aside from screen resolution, you can also increase the display size of text, menus and so on.

Many people with visual impairment can see some colour combinations (such as white text on a black background) better than others. Both Windows and Apple have a wide range of pre-defined colour schemes, or you can create your own preferred scheme.

Zooming in increases the size of the document window, when using Microsoft Office. This does not affect the size of printouts.

You can enlarge the size of the screen display, including program toolbars, by using the step-by-step instructions at MyComputerMyWay.

Larger screens

Before exploring magnification software, consider a larger screen (at least a 24 inches screen) as an alternative to the standard 19 inches.

Laptop screens are generally smaller, with a typical viewing area of around 15 inches. They do come in larger sizes but can increase the weight of the laptop. Connecting your laptop to a larger screen (or to a modern TV using an HDMI cable) can be more effective. If you are using a separate screen alongside a laptop, it’s better to have a separate keyboard and a mouse. That way you can set up the computer equipment to ensure the laptop is not obstructing the external screen.

Using a monitor arm connected to the larger screen can also help. You can adjust the viewing distance and reduce glare. Please seek professional advice to choose the correct monitor arm and mount.

Read more about adapting your computer at My Computer My Way.

Produced in association with AbilityNet

AbilityNet. Adapting Technology. Changing Lives - links to AbilityNet website

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