Narrator (Ease of Access feature – Windows)

Text-to-speech technology can help people with vision impairment and learning disabilities. Third-party applications include advanced features such as converting speech into MP3 files or converting text into Braille (Jaws), but if you are not looking for the advanced features, the built-in Narrator feature on Windows computers can read aloud the text and elements on your screen.

For example, converting text into audible words using Narrator can help persons with learning disabilities comprehend words on a computer screen better. Narrator can help them read a paragraph, document or articles in a web browser window. Narrator can also read pop-up windows that contain messages.

How to start Narrator in Windows 10.

Option 1:
Press Windows logo key + Ctrl + Enter together to start Narrator.
Press these keys again to stop Narrator. If you would like to change the voice of narrator, you can change it from Add more voices.
After you start Narrator, you will see the following pop-up Window.

The pop-up windows read as below.

Heads up Narrator keyboard changes.
We’ve updated the Narrator keyboard layout so it more closely matches the experience you may have had with other screen readers.
If you want Narrator to tell you what commands are associated with the keys you’re pressing, you can turn on input learning by pressing Caps lock + 1. To turn it off, press Caps lock + 1 twice. To learn more, press Ctrl + Windows logo key + N to open your Narrator settings and access the online user guide.

If you do not want to see this pop-up window next time, you can stop this pop-up windows by clicking the check box, “Don’t show again.”

Option 2:
Press Windows logo key + Ctrl + N to open Narrator settings, and then turn on the toggle under Use Narrator.

Narrator Turn on/off and start-up options

If you would like to turn on Narrator to start before or after sign-in, check the selection boxes, “Start Narrator after sign-in for me” and/or “Start Narrator before sign-in for everyone”.

Settings: you can change the narrator settings such as a narrator voice, voice speed, pitch, volumes, etc.

Quick References:

A Web page, document or file:
Move your cursor to the section of text you want Narrator to start reading
Press Caps Lock + R keys will start reading. Press Ctrl key to stop.

Narrator + Ctrl + Plus sign (+) or Narrator + Ctrl + Add (numeric keypad) to increase volume
Narrator + Ctrl + Minus sign (-) or Narrator + Ctrl + Subtract (numeric keypad) to decrease volume

Complete Guide to Narrator:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/22798/windows-10-complete-guide-to-narrator

Get started with Narrator screen reader in Windows 10 | Microsoft
(YouTube by Microsoft May 22, 2018)

If you use a Windows 8 or 8.1 system, you may find the following resources to be helpful.

Narrator on Windows 8: https://www.isunshare.com/windows-8/turn-on-and-turn-off-narrator-on-windows-8-or-8.1-computer.html

Posted in Assistive Technology, Technology in Education, Accessibility Features, Windows, Blind | Leave a comment

Virtual Assistant – Cortana

You may be familiar with using Siri and Google Assistant as your virtual assistant apps. Cortana is Microsoft’s own virtual assistant app. It is similar to Apple’s assistant Siri. In Windows 10, you can use Cortana with voice commands to do many things such as open files, programs, search files, call people, send SMS and email, take notes, etc. You can use Cortana on Android devices and Windows 10 computers. If you have a Windows 10 computer and would like to try it, you can enable Cortana with the following steps.

How to enable Cortana by voice on Windows 10
Right Click Windows logo, select Search on your taskbar, or use the keyboard shortcut Windows + S. Type Cortana in the search box.

Click ‘Cortana Permissions’ setting. Click ‘Talk to Cortana’.
Turn the ‘Hey Cortana’ toggle on to select the voice command option. Turn the Keyboard shortcut toggle on.

Select Talk to Cortana and Turn on voice command option, “Hey Cortana”

Cortana can display information based on your interests such as news, sports, shopping etc. After enabling Cortana and checking your microphone’s volume, try the following example.

Example:

Press Windows logo + C or say “Hey Cortana” and say, “Weather in New York”. Then the Cortana displays the weather in New York.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-5.png
Cortana dictates what you said, “weather in New York” and displays the weather in New York.

You can enable Cortana in the MS Edge browser by enabling Cortana from Advanced settings. However, if you use Chrome/Firefox, it looks like you will need to tweak the setting to use it (here is the additional information:

https://www.addictivetips.com/windows-tips/how-to-make-cortana-use-google-search-in-chrome-and-firefox/

For Android phone, go to Play store and Search “Cortana”.

Cortana apps for Android

If you have a MS Account and would like to expand the capabilities of Cortana, the following websites provide you with additional information.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/cortana/gettingstarted?activetab=pivot1%3aprimaryr2

Microsoft Build: Cortana + Alexa Demo (Youtube 2018 posted by Microsoft)

Microsoft build: Cortana + Alexa demo by Microsoft, 2018

Of course, not only Cortana, any other virtual assistant apps may bring up privacy issues concerning what information can go to the third party companies that control virtual assistants and how this data may be used. As far as Cortana, you can disable Cortana or clear the search history. You may also check more information about the “Permissions and History” tab because Cortana can access a lot of information about you and your device. If you need more privacy settings information in Cortana, you may go to:

https://www.laptopmag.com/articles/stop-cortana-windows-10-anniversary


Posted in Accessibility Features, Android, Assistive Technology, AT_Apps, Blind, Windows | Leave a comment

Speech Recognition (Ease of Access)

Do you know that you can use the Speech Recognition feature in Windows by using your voice for dictation on your computer without buying any special speech recognition software? Admittedly, you may find the accuracy of voice recognition varies depending on your microphone, environment (i.e. noise), and local dialects (or accents) that you may speak.

It is always best to check your microphone setting on your computer before you start using the Speech Recognition feature. Most new computers come with a built-in microphone, but you may need to use an external microphone if your computer lacks a built-in microphone.

Microphone settings and troubleshooting

Windows 10:

You can follow the Microsoft support page to set up your microphone and Speech Recognition.
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4027176/windows-10-use-voice-recognition

Or manually set up as follows.

Check to make sure your audio devices aren’t muted or input and output devices are correctly selected. Right-click the Speakers icon on the taskbar, and then select ‘Open Sound settings’.

Speaker icon
Sound settings

Then you should be able to verify that you have the correct Input and Output devices selected.

Sound Output/Input device example

If you still have additional Sound problems, go to the Microsoft support page below. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4520288/windows-10-fix-sound-problems

The following instructions describe how to start speech Recognition on Windows 10 and Windows 8 system. If you do not know which operating system you have on your computer, right click Windows symbol on the taskbar (normally at the left corner bottom on the Windows desktop) , select Search, type ‘System’, and you will find the operating system (OS) information in the pop-up Window of your computer. You can also find the information in the File Explore, Right click ‘This PC’ and click Properties. Then you will find the operating system under the Windows edition. Follow the instruction below depending on your OS.

Windows 10 OS:
You can enable Speech Recognition feature in two ways. You can use Keyboard shortcuts or go to the Speech section from Settings > Ease of Access > Speech.

By using Keyboard Shortcuts:

Within a word processor or notebook program (i.e. Microsoft Word), type
Windows logo key & H

If you see a pop-up window shown below (a microphone icon and Listening),you can start dictation.

Microphone icon (when it is ready to dictation)

Or Turn on Speech Recognition by Windows logo key + Ctrl + S

Speech Recognition – on

You can stop or start your dictation by saying ‘Stop listening’ or ‘Start listening’ as long as the speech recognition is running.

You can also turn on Speech Recognition by going to the Ease of Access. To access Speech Recognition, Windows logo key + U, go to Speech under Ease of Access, and click turn on the Speech Recognition.

Turn on/off Speech Recognition
or press Windows logo key + Ctrl + S
Talk Instead of Talk and Cortana(digital assistant) settings
Online speech recognition setting

Windows 10 has additional speech recognition features, you can talk to Cortana and other apps that use Microsoft’s cloud-based speech recognition. Additionally if you turn off online speech recognition, you won’t be able to speak to Cortana or use dictation. We will cover Cortana feature in a different blog next time.

Windows 8
Check to make sure your audio devices aren’t muted or Recording device is correctly selected for dictation. Right-click the Speakers icon on the taskbar, and then select ‘Recording devices’.

Speaker icon
Recording devices
Sound and Microphone settings

Verify the default Microphone is working and click Configure, it will bring up Speech Recognition options in the Ease of Access. Note: you can also get to this screen from Control Panel > Ease of Access > Speech Recognition > Start speech recognition.

Ease of Access / Configure Speech Recognition experience window

Configure Speech Recognition experience

From this screen, you can set up microphone, start speech recognition, speech tutorial, train your computer, and open Speech Reference card.   Open Speech Reference card will show additional help information and videos on how to use Speech Recognition.

Speech Recognition commands:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12427/windows-speech-recognition-commands

| Leave a comment

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:
https://www.isunshare.com/windows-10/6-ways-to-turn-on-on-screen-keyboard-in-windows-10.html

Other types of On-screen keyboards:
http://abilitynet.wikifoundry.com/page/On+Screen+Keyboards

| Leave a comment

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is magnify-image2.png
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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is magnify-image7.png
Change Zoom increments
Start Magnifier automatically after sign-in

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is magnify-image9.png
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.


| Leave a comment

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:
http://www.spectronics.com.au/article/literacy-support-software-comparison-chart
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: https://www.texthelp.com/en-us/products/read-write/premium-features/

ClaroRead Plus: http://www.choiceadaptive.com/product/claroread-plus/

Kurzweil 3000: https://www.kurzweiledu.com/k3000-firefly/features.html

Posted in Accessibility Features, Assessment, Assistive Technology, AT_Apps, AT_Software, Technology in Education, Vocational Services, 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.

| Leave a comment

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.

| Leave a comment

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. https://vimeo.com/thenoyo

Open Orchestras: https://www.openorchestras.org/

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