During the month of June, The TECHConnection at FRA provided a free workshop on the built-in accessibility features of Windows 8 Operating System.  Using a touch screen laptop attendees first learned how to navigate the new and very different Windows 8!    The people who came to this workshop had not used Windows 8 before.   Most arrived very skeptical but left with less fear and a better understanding about Windows 8!

This training included how to locate and work with  Ease of Access where all the built in       features are located.  In attendance were educators and also consumers.  One consumer with vision challenges was specifically interested in what accessibility feature would help her view her computer easier .  She was very interested in how the magnification would work.  She was also presently surprised to see that the high contrast feature was able to help her significantly.  As well we demonstrated the Narrator feature which is built in text to speech so that she could hear text read outloud.   This will specifically become handy when her eyes start to tire.  This text to speech feature is also good for individuals with Learning disabilities who are also print challenged as they can now hear the words as they are read.   This will help to increase comprehension and speed up the reading process.   The built in Speech Recognition,  where you can  speak into the computer and the text will be typed for you, was demonstrated and everyone was amazed at the accuracy and how easy it was to use.

Edward, a gentlman with a spinal cord injury stated “I never considered being a Windows 8 user until I had the opportunity to try it out at the TECHConnection.”   Edward has minimal usage of his arms and hands and no use of his fingers.  He used a T Cuff with a Griffon Stylus and was able to maneauver around the touch screen of Windows 8 with no difficulty.   Edward was excited that he would be able to use touch technology  along with the keyboard shortcuts which will help him move around Windows 8 with speed and accuracy.

Microsoft has done a great job of helping to keep costs down for all users and especially for users with challenges or disabilities.   These many built in features alleviate the need to purchase additional third party software.   Magnification now offers a variety of ways to magnify your screen.  The on-screen keyboard now offers word prediction which helps to quicken the pace of typing and also helps individuals with learning challenges that have trouble recalling how to spell a word.  Text to speech and speech to text features are much easier and smoother to use.   For more information visit the www.Microsoft.com/enable  website or select the Ease of Access folder that comes with your computer.