Friday, July 24th, 2009...3:40 pm

At Your Finger Tips: Access Features of Operating Systems

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When one thinks of adaptive technology third party applications that run over top of operating systems (OS) and customized pieces of hardware pop to mind. While this is true of much adaptive technology I thought I’d start this blog by talking about the accessible and adaptive features that are imbedded in the operating systems we use every day.

Both Windows and Macintosh operating systems contain features that allow the computer user to change the way their keyboard and mouse are used and the way information is displayed on the screen. In brief, here are some of the features that have been available since the early days of these operating systems:

  • Sticky Keys allows a user to use modifier keys (Alt, Control, Option, Command and Shift) without needing to push two keys at once.
  • Key Repeat rate allows the user to change how fast a key will repeat when it is held down or prevent a key from repeating until it is pushed again.
  • Changing the pointer’s size, shape and speed are useful for people who have difficulty seeing or tracking the pointer on the screen.
  • Computer users with visual impairments can make use of basic screen magnification features, use high contrast display, and change the size of elements in the OS (like menu items, title bars or the buttons in dialogue boxes.)
  • Visual alerts allow a person who can’t hear the alert sounds the OS produces to get the same prompt with a screen flash.

To find out all there is to know about the accessible features of Windows here are the pages for XP, Vista and the new Windows 7:

What’s new in Windows 7 accessibility: In the latest MS operating system we’re going to see improvements to Windows screen magnification capability and built in speech recognition capability.

Here’s the page to find out all there is to know about the accessible features of Macintosh OS:

What’s new in Macintosh accessibility: Macintosh was the first operating system to come with a built in aural interface (screen reader) to allow access without sight. In their latest operating system Apple has made another first by creating a gesture based screen reader. I’ll be making a post about this innovation in the near future.

By making sure a computer user has access to these features of the operating system workstations can be made accessible to many who just need small adjustments to the way the system works.


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