Windows On-Screen keyboard

MS Windows 8 and 10 have several ways to use the On-Screen keyboard feature. The following is one method to start the On-Screen keyboard. Using shortcut keys: Windows logo key + Ctrl + O to start the On-Screen keyboard (press all these keys at the same time).

Windows log key, Ctrl key, and O

Then you will see a virtual keyboard on your screen. If you have a touchscreen laptop, you can now use your finger. Or use a mouse, headmouse or eyemouse for typing with this Virtual Keyboard.

On-Screen Keyboard

Once you enable the On-Screen keyboard you can activate the Options key, and select which options you want to use.

Options (On-Screen keyboard)

Options are:

  1. Use click sound – You will hear a sound when you press a key.
  2. Show keys to make it easier to move around the screen- You will see the key to light up when you click or hover over on the key.
  3. Turn on numeric keypad – show a numeric keypad
  4. Click on keys – click or tap the On-Screen keys to enter text.
  5. Hover over keys– By using a mouse or joystick to point to a key, the characters you select will be entered automatically when you point or hover over to the selected keys.
    Note: make sure to check if the setting of “show animations on Windows” is on when the Hover over keys option does no work.
  6. Scan through keys – Select a key from the option, initiate scan mode, and it will highlight areas by using the shortcut key. Using a switch input device, or using a device that simulates a mouse click, you enter the character.
  7. Use Text Prediction -This option will suggest words as you type so you can select the word without typing the complete word.
Turn on “Show animations on” to make the Hover over option work

Another way to start the On-screen keyboard:
Press Windows key + I and go to the Ease of Access, under the Keyboard section, turn on the On-Screen keyboard.

Another method:Turn on the On-Screen Keyboard from Ease of Access, Windows Settings

Other ways to start On-Screen keyboard:

Other types of On-screen keyboards:

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Windows Magnification features

Online education has many advantages for students with disabilities by allowing these students access to digital format materials remotely and attending classes at a flexible time. While printed textbooks are still popular, the world of education is becoming more digital every day. When you visit your local library, you will find fewer printed books on the shelves but see more computers so that people can access a larger distribution of digital eBooks or internet information. Additionally most libraries make digital materials available to check out from home.

However, persons with disabilities and elderly face challenges in using computers. So this year I will focus on finding options on how people with disabilities and elderly can use the computer and mobile devices easier.

Today, I will discuss magnification option (one of the Ease of Access features) on Microsoft Windows system (Commercial magnification software is excluded in this blog). There are a few ways to increase magnifications and many instructions are available for Windows, but the following steps can be used as a quick reference on both Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 computers. You may need someone’s help initially. If you still have a Windows XP computer, please let me know and I will find the information.

Magnify, fonts, and File Explore.
Windows 10 (Home):
Once you log on your Windows 10 computer,
Press Windows logo key and U.
This will bring up the Ease of Access Windows settings.
Under Display, Make text bigger, drag the slider until the sample text is easy to read.
To make everything bigger, change the magnification percentage.

Make everything bigger

Windows 8.1 (Pro):
On the desktop, Right click. Then you will see the pop-up shown below.
Right click, Screen resolution.

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Screen resolution

Click ‘Make text and other items larger or smaller’.

Make text and other items larger or smaller

This will bring up ‘Display’ option where you can change the magnification level.

Magnification level (percent)

If you want to change only the fonts (Text) size, use the ‘Change only the text size’ option. As you see, the menu in the MS Word is enlarged.

Change only text size

Additionally, Microsoft Windows offers a ‘Magnifier’ .

Using Magnifier
Windows 10 (Home):
Windows key and U brings the Setting of Ease of Access.
Click Magnifier.
By clicking ‘Turn on Magnifier’ on, the pop-up magnifier.

Then you can use a few keystroke combinations to control the magnification level.

Windows logo key and + (plus key) to enlarge (Zoom in).
Windows logo key and – (minus key) to reduce the magnification (Zoom out).
Press and hold Ctrl and Alt key and rotate the wheel on your computer mouse to zoom in and out.
You can change the increments so that you can control magnifying gradually or you can set once you find out your prefer magnification level.

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Change Zoom increments
Start Magnifier automatically after sign-in

You can use Magnifier in three different views: full screen, lens, or docked.

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different Magnification options

Windows 8.1 *(Pro)
Press Windows logo key and U, and follow the instructions in the Windows 10.

Start Magnifier

Google Chrome
When you are using Google Chrome browser, you can use the following combinations to adjust the magnification.

Ctrl and + (plus key) to magnify (Zoom in)
Ctrl and – (minus key) to Zoom out
Ctrl 0 (zero) to reset go back to 100%

Note: If you use Ctrl key and +, it only magnify within Chrome, but Windows key and + will magnify everything on the desktop.

Use a TV screen as a monitor
Another option is to use a large screen TV to be used as a computer monitor by using your computer’s HDMI or Displayport. All laptops should be able to hook up an additional monitor, but if you are using a desktop computer, you may need install an additional video card for driving a second monitor.

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Reading and Writing Support software

This month’s blog compares the following three literacy support software packages.

Texthelp Read&Write GOLD, ClaroRead Plus and Kurzweil 3000 for Windows are popular literacy support software programs. You may want to compare the features and identify which literacy support software programs may best meet your students’ needs in the classroom or at home. 

Read&Write, ClaroRead Software, and Kurzweil 3000

Most of these software have features to support reading and writing. Their main features include: read MS Word documents, PDFs , and Web pages with highlighting. This type of software can read anything on the PC screen by selecting with a mouse. They can also save text as speech to an audio file and scan paper documents (OCR) and spellcheck. These types of software can reads multiple languages (i.e. English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Swedish with the user’s preference of voices and accents). Word prediction support is also available for the student to help with spelling and writing, and phonetic prediction (i.e. knowledge). Another feature is echo and listen back after you have written. Mobile device support is common. Some advanced features include dictation, picture recognitions, and Dragon professional document support (i.e. echo back text recognized by Dragon professional Software). You may find the following literacy support software comparison chart helpful to compare each features. The chart was created by Spectronics. Go to the following URL or click the chart below:
Please note that most software companies add more features time to time which may not be listed in this chart.

Literacy Software comparison chart (partial view)

Additional information:
Texthelp Read&Write GOLD:

ClaroRead Plus:

Kurzweil 3000:

Posted in Assistive Technology, Technology in Education, Vocational Services, AT_Apps, AT_Software, Accessibility Features, Assessment, Windows | Leave a comment

Special needs chairs

Persons with disabilities require proper seating to help make a difference in terms of day-to-day activities.  The following chairs are just some examples of chairs that accommodate special needs.

Classroom seat

Leckey Pal Classroom Seat

Leckey Pal Classroom seat provides Pelvic Stability with a combination of a two-point lab belt and side pads for lateral stability.

Corner chair

Corner chair

Kay Corner Chairs are made for users who need support of the head, trunk, and pelvis in order to help develop an upright sitting posture and align the head and trunk.

Lifting seat assist

Lifting Seat Assist

This Uplift Power Seat Assist helps a person who has trouble sitting down or standing up from any armchair or sofa.

Bath Chair

A Special Needs Bath Chair is shown on the left.

Stair Climber chair

Stair climber chair

Stair climber offers a solution for transporting an individual with their own wheelchair or a model that has a built-in seat to climb up or down stairs.

Stair Climbing Wheelchairs

Stair Climbing Wheelchairs

Scientists and university research groups have been working on the proto-types of stair-climbing wheelchairs to improve the mobility and quality of life for people with disabilities. Here is an example of a proto-type stair-climbing wheelchair.

Lex wearable seat

Lex Wearable seat

Lex chair may not be for persons with disabilities, but you can carry the wearable chair around your waist and thighs and set up a chair whenever and wherever you need. In addition, this exoskeleton chair actually aligns your spine and maintains your posture as you sit.

Posted in Assistive Technology, AT_Device, Elderly, Employment, Mobility, Robots, Transition, Transportation for wheelchair users, Transportations, Wearable Computing | Leave a comment

Robot-assisted feeding (RAF) Systems

Eating and drinking independently are difficult for persons with disabilities because of a range of issues such as weakened grip, loss of arm functions, tremor, etc. Low tech options lightweight thick handled cutlery for reduced strength or heavier handle utensils for persons with a tremor (i.e. ‘Liftware – Self-Stabilizing Eating Utensils’ posted on November 30, 2017). In addition to these low-tech utensils, many researchers have been developing and testing Robotic feeding aids: one is commercially available to public and other options may be still in research/development stage. I selected two among them in this blog.

Obi, which is available to public, offers a trial period and a lease with options to buy. You can use switches to operate and can program to adjust the feeding controls (Max Food Delivery Height 15.3” above mounting surface, Lowest Food Delivery Height – 2 “ below mounting surface and Reach up to 16” Food delivery reach. It weigh approx. 7.7 lbs. so it is possible to take it with you.

How to use Obi

ADA, the Assistive Dextrous Arm, is a Kinova JACO robotic arm, which is a robot-assisted feeding (RAF) arm for people with upper-extremity impairments. It is mounted on a powered ROVI Mobility wheelchair with a wrist-mounted camera which holds a folk.

Autonomous Robot Feeding with Assistive Dexterous Arm (ADA)

Robot assisted feeding systems have some challenges to solve. The following information was referenced from a technical paper, ‘Community-Centered Design Framework for Robot-Assisted Feeding Systems’, by the researchers of the University of Washington. For example, if a care-recipient cannot sit in a normal position, robot assisted feeding system will need to program and configure to adjust how foods can be delivered perfectly to the person’s mouth. Some users prefer smaller, compact size, sleek design and quiet. Robot needs to identify type of foods (i.e. soft banana vs apple) so that the spoon or fork can pick up the food. Food-intake safety criteria needs to be addressed such as detecting to avoid an accident of bouncing the utensil to the user or sending a notification to someone in case of an emergency (i.e. choking food). Some may prefer social interaction with their care-giver feeding meals vs. a robot feeding system. However, their research shows that the assisted feeding system helped independence among the tested group.

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ReadEasy Evolve

ReadEasy Evolve from Irie AT Inc is a Reading device for persons with low vision or blindness. It is a portable, stand-alone device. Scan and read documents, books, recipes, bank statements, product packaging, etc. up to 11”x17” in size with its 5K resolution camera. This is one of the attractive features because you are not limited to read only letter size documents. ReadEasy Evolve has built-in tactile controls such as selections of switching between a letter size and a larger size document and allows the user to capture, play, pause, read with variable speeds, and navigate the documents easily. It reads the materials within seconds after pressing a single Button. You can scan multiple pages, which is guided by a voice prompt when you turn a page and press a button to scan each page.

ReadEasy offers variety of natural sounding voices based on your preferences including children, adult, female, male, UK/American English, and Spanish. ReadEasy Evolve can automatically detect and read different languages, even switching automatically between languages in the same document. Once you connect to a monitor, you can magnify the text or see highlighting during reading on the screen and export scanned documents to you PC. It also supports a touch-screen computer. Additional options are available by using Feature Pack. Find more information from the following YouTube video and the Irie-AT Inc website at this URL.

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Accessible Musical Instrument

Music helps the person with special needs to motivate themselves to work on challenging tasks and provides them with a multi-sensory experience. For example, it is known that playing instrument helps children with ADHD or learning disabilities. However, a person with physical disabilities may not be able to access most of the musical instruments.

The United Kingdom (UK) has been very active inventing musical instruments for persons with disabilities. For example, an accessible musical instrument called ‘Clarion’ makes it possible for the disabled to play music. It is a piece of software that contains a near-infinite number of instruments. It is possible to play the Clarion with your fingers, any other part of the body, head, feet or eyes movements. It looks like Clarion can be modified to accommodate a wide variety of any Musicians’ needs. For example, Clarion can be positioned and moved anywhere on a surface allowing the prospective musician easy access. There are different colors, sizes, angles, and rotations to represent notes. Additionally it looks like notes include the variations of expressions by the speed of travel and your position within each shape.

CLARION Software running on tobii-eye-mobile-on-stand

Here is one musician with his Open Musical Instruments.

The National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO) is made up with UK’s disabled and non-disabled musicians aged 11 to 25, which is launched in September 2018. Their first performance is planned for Spring, 2020.

Open Orchestras:

Posted in Accessibility Features, Assistive Technology, AT_Apps, AT_Device, AT_Software, Blind, Elderly, Mobility, Sensors, Technology in Education, Transition | Tagged , | Leave a comment

TV Accessibility features

It is not easy to engage in digital content for persons with disabilities such as finding out what is on TV or navigating the TV. Some TV broadcasting companies are trying to offer accessibility features so that these individuals can enjoy watching TV independently.

For example, Spectrum Broadcasting offers accessibility options such as an audible TV guide and downloadable video app for customers with visual impairments. A Spectrum Receiver with Spectrum Guide Narration includes full text-to-speech support of the Spectrum Guide so that persons with visual impairment can explore many TV shows and movies. Spectrum also offers closed captioning options which include Text Color, Text Size, Text Transparency, Font, Background color, etc. for the deaf.

Optimum Broadcasting offers services in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Long Island. Optimum offers accessibility features such as closed captioning, chat, caller ID, visual voicemail, Text/Email Alerts for Deaf and voice guidance, talking guide, and voice commands for persons with limited mobility (more info).

Persons with limited mobility or physical disabilities may have additional challenges such as speech impediment. As a result, they are not able to change channels, navigate the X1 programming guide, and set up recordings by voice. Comcast is planning to include eye gaze control to its X1 cable platform in addition to existing accessibility features (i.e. voice control). The eye control feature will help individuals with physical disabilities navigate TV channels independently. It looks like it will support most eye gaze hardware and software on the market such as Tobii. Hopefully more TV broadcasting companies will include and expand accessibility features to accommodate persons with disabilities.

Meet Jimmy | See How Our Technology Is Enabling Him to Be More Independent
(Youtube video by Comcast June 2019)

Posted in Accessibility Features, Assistive Technology, AT_Apps, AT_Software, Blind, Elderly, Hearing, Home Automation, Mobility, Services, Smart Home, Transition | Tagged | Leave a comment

Microsoft Translator

Microsoft Translator is a translator app that you can run on your mobile devices or on your computer. You can exchange conversations one-on-one or work with large group interactions and perform real-time translations. To include other participant(s) you share the code assigned to the conversation so that they can also participate in the conversation. This app can translate more than 60 languages via text or voice so you can include anyone regardless of the language they speak.

Where to get Microsoft Translator app

How to Use Microsoft Translator (YouTube)

How to Use Microsoft Translator
(Posted by Richard Byrne, 2018)

You can use this app not only for translation to another language, but you can also use this app to interact with d/Deaf and hard of hearing persons. For example, the speech to text feature allows d/Deaf and hard of hearing persons to read what you said on their mobile device. So it is useful in a real-time daily conversation. Additionally you can install Presentation Translator in the MS Power Point and use it in the classroom/lectures setting to accommodate these individuals with special needs. I hope that more teachers use technology like this app/software and devices to increase inclusion of d/Deaf and hard of hearing students or ESL students into general education classroom.

Get Started with Presentation Translator for Power Point (YouTube)

Get Started with Presentation Translator for Power Point
Microsoft Research (Published – 2017)

Presentation Translator in Action (YouTube)

Presentation Translator in Action
Microsoft Research (Published – 2017)
Posted in Accessibility Features, Android, Assistive Technology, AT_Apps, AT_Software, Hearing, iOS app, Wearable Computing | Leave a comment

Tap (one-handed keyboard)

Tap is an alternative one-handed wearable keyboard, which allows you to control your smartphone and other Bluetooth devices by tapping your fingers on any surface including your own body. You may find this alternative one-handed keyboard suitable for individuals with low vision or limited mobility. Tap supports Apple’s VoiceOver capabilities so that VoiceOver users may find this useful when they need to text, navigate, and control their mobile phones and computers. OS Compatibility: IOS 9+, ANDROID 5+, OS X YOSEMITE+, WINDOWS 8.1+, LINUX UBUNTU.

Learning to Tap with TapGenius Learning System
(YouTube video – published by Tap 2018)

Tap can also be used with iOS’ built in Switch Control so that users with limited mobility can navigate and control apps easier by mapping any switch control to any simple finger tap. You can customized and personalize any input, hotkey and combination of keys into single finger taps.

Using Switch Control to Navigate your iPhone or iPad with the Tap Strap
(YouTube video – published by Tap 2019)

Additionally, by using Web-based utility called TapMapper allows you to create custom layouts to play games and Garageband (music creation studio for macOS and iOS devices).

TapMapping for Garage Band (YouTube video -Published by Tap 2018)

According to the company, you can lean the Tap Alphabet™ in one to two hours by using their training game. It may be difficult for users who have tremor or learning disabilities. However, some individual may find Tap as an alternative keyboard allowing them access tablets or phone in a more comfortable way (i.e. any position such as laying on a bed or a wheelchair without holding a keyboard).
The price of Tap costs $199 which is more than most other keyboards on the market. Hopefully the price will be more affordable in the future for anyone who needs this special one-handed keyboard.

Posted in Accessibility Features, Assistive Technology, AT_Device, Blind, Employment, Games, Mobility, Technology in Education, Transition, Wearable Computing, Wearable devices, Windows | Leave a comment