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Ease of Access Review Part 1 On-Screen Keyboard

Posted by Darrell Hyatt on June 1, 2010

Welcome to the Enabling Abilities to Appear podcast, being able to use the computer and a variety of ways has always been very important as well as difficult for those people with disabilities or hand control issues, vision issues etc. and Microsoft has tried to make some of those things easier with the accessibility options in earlier versions of Windows and I thought I would look at some of those options which are available in the newest operating system from Microsoft that being Windows 7.

The first thing I noticed was they changed the name from “accessibility options” to “ease of access” once you enter the ease of access center you have very similar options to what you had in earlier versions of Windows and one of the first topics that I wanted to talk about in this multipart series was how do we enter information into the computer itself?

How do we use some of the other application are available eg how do we type in to the various programs if we cannot use a standard keyboard. now Windows 7 still has the on screen keyboard but they have made a few very significant changes in the application.

The first one is that you can now actually re-size the keyboard and make the keys significantly larger, in earlier versions of the on screen keyboard yes you could physically make keyboard larger by clicking on the corners and dragging it to whatever size you wanted but the actual size of the physical keys on the keyboard did not change in size.  It was only the space around the keys to her on the edge of the keyboard itself that grew larger.

In the new version that’s part of Windows 7 however, as you drag a corner to make the keyboard larger the keys themselves all only come larger which means they are a much easier target for individuals to hit there’s less chance that you’re going to accidentally hit the wrong key.

One of the other things that I notice which is also very beneficial is they have now got word prediction built into this onscreen keyboard which means as you type several letters in the word it’s going to make some guesses as to what words you want and will put five of them up across the top of the keyboard.  If one of the words shown there is a word that you want you simply go up and click on it and it will complete that word for you.

This keyboard also has the various input methods available to you that we’re in earlier versions you can use the mouse and click on the key’s, this does require good manual dexterity and good use of the mouse.  We have the hover or dwell click is there so if you simply leave your mouse still over a key for a given period of time which is adjustable you will type the letters. There is a scanning method as well and you can use a variety of keys such as the spacebar to activate the scanning.

So there are quite a few options available for anyone that needs this particular piece of technology and I’m glad to see that they made the enhancements because in earlier versions that usually meant having to go to a third party on-screen keyboard which had the word prediction and completion in it.  This feature along with the ability to resize the actual keys is going to make it useful for a significant number of people.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns please feel free to e-mail me at please feel free to stop by my website which Thank you very much.

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