Accessibility Features in Windows 7

The computer I use for this class uses Windows 7 as the operating system.  Regarding technology application, Roblyer and Doering (2012) stated, “the general goal is always the same: to harness the potential of technology in ways that offer an individual with a disability increased opportunities for learning, productivity, and independence – opportunities that otherwise would not be available” (p. 400).  After exploring the different accessibility features available through the Ease of Access Center in Windows 7, I realized that Microsoft helps to support this goal.

I grouped the features based on the type of disability they can help to accommodate.  I have focused on cognitive, physical, and sensory disabilities, but the features could also be applied to help at-risk and gifted/talented students, depending on their situation.  Please keep in mind that many of the accessibility features can accommodate multiple disabilities, but I have listed each only once.

Students with Cognitive Disabilities
According to Roblyer and Doering (2012), the issue for students with mild cognitive disabilities “is not physical access to technology, but reading, writing, memory, and retention of information” (p. 406). 

  • Narrator
    This feature can be setup to help someone who has difficulty reading the on-screen text due to a cognitive disability or someone with a visual impairment.  The Narrator also voices each key typed on the keyboard. That would be helpful for someone who has difficulty with keyboard typing, although they would need to type slowly in order to allow time for the software to work appropriately.
  • Blinking Cursor Thickness
    This setting allows the user to increase the thickness of the blinking cursor used when typing in programs that are on the computer, such as Microsoft Word. I did not notice it being applied online when composing an email or chatting.  This feature could be helpful for someone with a visual impairment or for a student that has difficulty focusing or tracking while typing or reading.
  • Animations and Background Images
    The Ease of Access Center allows for the user to choose to turn off animations and remove background images when available.  This could help those with focusing problems to minimize distractions as much as possible.

Students with Physical Disabilities
According to Roblyer and Doering (2012), “Physical disabilities typically affect a person’s mobility and agility” (p. 409).

  • On-Screen Keyboard
    This feature would be ideal for someone with the inability to type with two hands since they are able to use to use a mouse to make their letter selections on a keyboard that appears on the screen. Unlike having to type an entire word with possibly one hand or one finger, the on-screen keyboard uses word prediction which can help someone “type” faster with the use of a mouse.
  • Speech/Voice Recognition
    After setting up the software, users are able to control their computer with their voice. The settings under Speech or Voice Recognition can help users with both visual and physical impairments that keep them from being able to see what is on the screen or from being able to use a keyboard and/or mouse effectively.  
  • Mouse Keys
    Allows for the keyboard number pad to be used to move the mouse pointer around the screen rather than the mouse. Settings can be changed to adjust the speed of the movement using the number pad.  This can be helpful for those with a physical impairment that keeps them using the mouse effectively.
  • Sticky Keys
    Allows for keys to be pressed consecutively, rather than simultaneously, when using keyboard shortcuts (such as Ctrl + x for cut).  This can help someone with a physical impairment that is unable to press multiple keys at once.  It is also helpful for new keyboard/typing students to learn shortcuts.
  • Filter Keys
    Ignores or slows down brief or repeated keystrokes and adjusts keyboard repeat rates.  These settings are helpful for someone with a physical impairment that may have difficulty controlling their movements which could cause inaccuracy and frustration while typing. 

Students with Sensory Disabilities
According to Roblyer and Doering (2012), “Sensory disabilities involve impairments associated with the loss of hearing or vision” (p. 409). 

  • Magnifier
    The Magnifier zooms in on the screen and temporarily makes everything in that area larger.  In this section of the Ease of Access Center, the size of text and icons can also be adjusted to 125% and 150%.  The Magnifier feature would be a great accommodation for someone with vision impairments that just need a little added assistance in viewing what is on the screen, especially website text that is often very small.
  • High Contrast
    The High Contrast feature would also be helpful for someone with visual impairments.  It allows for settings to be modified making the computer easier to see by changing most backgrounds to black with white text.  I can see how this would also be helpful for any user in a dark environment, making reading and typing easier on the eyes.
  • Audio Description
    This is another feature that would be helpful for someone with a visual impairment while watching a video.  When available, it provides descriptions of what is happening in videos.  I am not aware of how often descriptions for videos are available, but this would be a great feature to consider using if a student is unable to watch videos.
  • Toggle Keys
    Provides an audio cue that caps lock, number lock, or scroll lock have been activated or deactivated using the keyboard keys.  This can be helpful for anyone, especially someone with a visual impairment, to notify them that a keyboard setting has been changed.
  • Mouse Pointers
    Users can change the color and size of the on-screen mouse pointer.  This can be helpful for those with visual impairments to make keeping track of the mouse pointer easier.
  • Visual Cues
    Enable users to get notifications in writing (pop-up windows) rather than sounds. These settings would be helpful for someone with a hearing impairment. 

Additional Resources:

Microsoft Accessibility in Windows 7 overview webpage:

A Guide for Educators – Valdosta State University:

YouTube video on how to find the Ease of Access Center in Windows 7:


Roblyer, M. D, & Doering, A. H. (2012). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. 


One Response to Accessibility Features in Windows 7

  1. Nathan De Groot says:

    I, too, found that Windows had quite a few tools that could accommodate many needs. I like how you grouped them within each specific disability. Did you have difficulties testing these? I tested a few of them and noticed advantages, but I could definitely see how they can be frustrating as well. However, it is good that Microsoft is seeking ways to help individuals with disabilities have access to technology.

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