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Windows 10 Ease of Access: Tips to Make Windows Easier to See, Hear, and Use

Introduction & Ease of Access Tips, Part I 

Windows 10 offers many settings for people with certain disabilities or limitations. Known as Ease of Access features, these items are geared toward helping those with vision issues, hearing problems, trouble using a mouse, or difficulties using a keyboard. The goal is to make Windows more accessible and comfortable for people who physically can’t use all the Windows 10 features with ease.
The Ease of Access features have been part of Windows for years and are baked into Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1, as well as Windows 10. The settings have been tweaked slightly over time, but the basic concept remains the same: You enable these features to help you better use, navigate, and access the key commands, components, and screens of Windows.
What Ease of Access features and other options will you find in Windows 10? Let’s go through them briefly and then cover each one in greater detail.
  • The Narrator speaks text from the buttons and other elements on the screen for people who can’t see well.
  • The Magnifier can zoom into parts of the screen to make them larger.
  • The High Contrast feature can increase the contrast of the screen to make it easier to see.
  • The Closed Captions option can display subtitles on the screen for supported videos in the Movies & TV app.
  • The On-Screen Keyboard lets you use a mouse to type a key if you can’t use a physical keyboard.
  • Sticky Keys allow you to press one key and have that key stay active until you press another key.
  • Toggle Keys emit a tone when you press certain keys so you know you’re hitting the right ones.
  • The Filter Keys feature ignores repeated strokes of the same key.
  • Mouse Keys let you use the numeric keypad instead of a mouse to move around the screen.
  • The Touch Feedback feature shows visual feedback when you touch the screen.
  • And the Visual Notifications option displays notifications on the screen when a sound is played.
Beyond using these Ease of Access features, you can enable or tweak other options in Windows to make the OS more user-friendly. In the properties for your mouse or touch pad, you can change the color of the cursor, make it larger, and even give it a trail, all in an effort to better see where it’s been and where it’s going. You can bump up the size of the tiles in the Windows Start menu or Start screen. You can enable reading mode in Microsoft Edge so Web pages are formatted to make them easier to read. And Windows Speech Recognition lets you control your PC by voice rather than by keyboard or mouse.
With the exception of the Microsoft Edge browser's reading mode and a couple of other features, most of the options listed above exist in Windows 7 and 8.1 as well. But again, we’ll stick with Windows 10 as our base as we proceed. So, let’s go through each of the Ease of Access settings and other features in Windows 10, so you can better work with your PC or tablet if you have certain disabilities or limitations.

The Basics

In Windows 10, you can tap into the Ease of Access features a few different ways. You can launch the Ease of Access Center through Control Panel. You can trigger the Ease of Access features via the Settings screen. And you can enable certain features at the sign in screen.
Let’s try the Control Panel option first, since that offers some distinct advantages. Open Control Panel and then click on the icon or link for Ease of Access Center...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Access Ease of Access)
The Ease of Access Center opens by automatically reading aloud the names of four features you can enable. You can turn off the narration by clicking off the check mark to “Always read this section aloud.” You can immediately enable any of the four features: Magnifier, Narrator, On-Screen Keyboard, and/or High Contrast.
You can also explore all of the Ease of Access features by category. For example, “Use the computer without a display” offers features for people who are blind or have difficulty seeing. The category for “Use a computer without a mouse or keyboard” offers options for people who physically cannot manipulate a mouse or keyboard. The “Make the keyboard easier to use” category is for individuals who can press keys on the keyboard, but with difficulty. And the category for “Use text or visual alternatives” offers tools for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Ease of Access Center)
If you have trouble seeing the screen at this point, then you may want to turn on the Narrator. To do so, click on the link for Narrator or press Alt+N. The Narrator starts reading aloud the text, links, and other items on the screen. By default, the Narrator reads whatever text your mouse cursor is on. To turn off Narrator, click on the Narrator Settings icon on the taskbar and click on the setting to Exit Narrator...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Narrator Settings)
Perhaps the most useful aspect of the Ease of Access Center is the offer to help you if you’re not sure where to get started. Click on the link to “Get recommendations to make your computer easier to use”...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Get Recommendations)
Windows then takes you through five screens to get a sense of your limitations to suggest which features may be of most value to you. Click on the check marks for the conditions that best match your situation...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Eyesight Recommendations)
After you’ve gone through the five screens, Windows recommends which Ease of Access features you may want to enable. You can review the recommendations and click on the check marks for whichever features you wish to use. After you do, click OK.
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Recommended Settings)
Windows returns you to the main page for the Ease of Access Center. If you wish, you can now go through each of the categories to see if there are other settings you want to enable. Or you can segue to the Ease of Access features in the Settings screen if you know which settings you want to turn on. Let’s try that so we can go through each feature in detail.

The Ease of Access Center

Close the Ease of Access Center. Click on the Start button, then click on Settings, and then click on Ease of Access.
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Windows Settings)
The Ease of Access screen for the Narrator opens first. At this screen, turn on the switch for the Narrator if you wish to hear your screen elements read aloud. Again, the Narrator reads any item beneath your mouse cursor. You can hear text read aloud on the screen by pointing your mouse to each word, one at a time. The process is slow, but it gets the job done.
The next setting, to “Start Narrator automatically,” turns on Narrator as soon as Windows launches...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Narrator Settings)
In the Voice section, you can choose the voice you wish to hear for Narrator. You can also adjust the speed and pitch for the voice you’ve selected. And enabling the setting for Intonation Pauses tries to make the speech sound more natural...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Narrator Voice)
Scroll down the rest of the page to review the other settings. In the “Sounds you hear” and “Cursor and keys” sections, you’ll most likely want to leave all of the settings turned on so you can hear Narrator read everything on your screen...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Narrator Sounds)
To learn more about Narrator and its behavior and commands, click on the Narrator Settings window (which is minimized to the taskbar when you turn on Narrator) and select one of the categories. You can also read the Microsoft Web page “Get started with Narrator.”
Next, click on the category for Magnifier to view all the options for this feature...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Enable Magnifier)
Turn on the switch for the Magnifier, and Windows zooms in on your screen so you can better see it.
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Magnifier Control Window)
Using the Magnifier control window, you can zoom in or out of the screen. You can change the view among Full screen (which zooms into the entire screen), Lens view (which zooms out but lets you zoom into the part of the screen to which your cursor points), and Docked view (which docks the magnified portion at the top of the screen). You can also click on the Options icon to access more settings for the Magnifier.
You can invert the colors of the Magnifier to display white text with a black background. You can choose to start the Magnifier automatically each time Windows launches. Under the section for Tracking, you can opt to have Magnifier follow the mouse cursor, follow the keyboard’s focus, or follow the text cursor...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Inverted Colors)
Now, click on the category for High Contrast. Here you can choose a high-contrast theme to change the colors and contrast of your screen. The idea here is that a high-contrast screen is easier to see and read than your normal screen. Choose one of the themes and then click Apply...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (High Contrast Themes)
Your screen then adopts the theme you selected, like so...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (High Contrast)
Next, click on the category for "Closed captions." In the Font section, you can change the options for caption colors, transparency, style, size, and effects. Your best bet here is to try different settings until you find the blend you like. In the section for Background and window, you can set the background color, background transparency, window color, and window transparency. Again, you can experiment with different settings to find the combination you prefer.
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Closed Caption Settings)
The closed captions take effect on any video you watch using the Windows Movies & TV app or another supported media application. The video you watch also has to support closed captions. If so, you’ll see a CC icon on the menu bar at the bottom of the screen. Click on that icon and then click on your preferred language to see the captions.
Next, click on the keyboard category. Enable the onscreen keyboard. You can press the keys with your mouse if you have trouble using a physical keyboard.
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Enable On-Screen Keyboard)
Enable Sticky Keys if you want to press a key and have it remain active until you press another key. After you enable this feature, a host of other options pop up. You can opt to turn on Sticky Keys when you press the Shift key five times. Within this function set, you can lock a modifier key (such as Fn or Alt) if you press it twice in a row. And you can display the Sticky Keys icon on the Windows taskbar for quick access when you need to activate it.
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Sticky Keys)
Enable Toggle Keys if you want Windows to play a tone when you press certain keys, so you know you’re pressing the correct ones. You can then opt to turn on Toggle Keys by pressing down the Num Lock key for five seconds. These controls look like this...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Toggle Keys)
You might also enable the Filter Keys functions, if you want Windows to ignore repeated keystrokes of the same key. You can choose to turn on Filter Keys if the right Shift key is pressed for eight seconds. You can opt to hear a beep when keys are pressed. And you can elect to display the Filter Keys icon on the taskbar.
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Filter Keys)
Scroll down to the section on Other Settings. Here, you can choose to have all shortcuts underlined so they’re easier to see...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Other Keyboard Settings)
Click on the category for Mouse. Here, you can change the size and color of the mouse pointer to make it more visible. You can also opt to use the number pad instead of the mouse to move around the screen, if that is easier for you...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Mouse Settings)
Next, click on the category for "Other options." You can turn off animations and the Windows background if they’re too distracting. You can also choose to show notifications for a certain number of seconds, increase the thickness of the cursor, and see a visual notification if a sound is triggered.
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Other Ease of Access Options)
There’s one more way you can enable a few of your Ease of Access features, and that’s at the Windows sign-in screen. At this screen, click on the Ease of Access icon. From there, you can enable Narrator, Magnifier, the On-Screen Keyboard, High Contrast mode, Sticky Keys, and Filter Keys.
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Ease of Access at Sign In)



Okay, that covers the Ease of Access features that will hopefully help those of you with certain disabilities or limitations. You might call those the "official" ones.
But there are additional steps you can take to make Windows 10 feel more comfortable. Some overlap with the Ease of Access options, or even take them further.
One key option is to make your mouse pointer even more prominent. To do this, open Control Panel and click on the icon for Mouse...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Control Panel Mouse Properties)
In the Mouse Properties window, click on the tab for Pointers. Click on the dropdown box for Scheme. You can choose from a variety of schemes to make your mouse pointer stand out better...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Pointers)
Click on the tab for Pointer Options. Three options here may be helpful. “Snap To” snaps the pointer to the nearest button in a dialog box so you don’t have to move it yourself. “Display pointer trails” flashes a trail to track the position of your pointer. And “Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key” helps reveal the mouse pointer when you have trouble finding it. Click OK when done...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Pointer Options)
Once upon a time in Windows 10, you could increase the size of text on the screen without enlarging anything else. It involved opening Control Panel, double-clicking on the Display icon, and increasing the font size for individual screen elements under the section “Change only the text size." 
Sadly, this option—and the entire Display menu in Control Panel—has vanished with the Windows 10 Creator Update. Now, you can only increase the scale of everything at once. To do this, right-click on an empty part of your desktop. Click "Display settings" on the menu that pops up...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Display Settings)
From here, you can enlarge everything in your display by a preset factor with the "Scale and layout" dropdown menu (under "Change the size of text, apps, and other items")...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Change the Size)
...or you can input a custom scaling factor...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Custom Scaling)
Warning: Save your work before applying custom scaling! Applying it will close your open apps and take you to the Windows lock screen.
Next, you can adjust the size of the tiles on your Start menu or Start screen. To do this, open your Start menu or Start screen and right-click on a small tile. From the popup menu, move to the Resize command and then click on Large...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Adjust Tile Size)

An Edge Viewability Tip, and...Speech Recognition?

Do you use Microsoft Edge? If so, you can make certain Web pages easier to read.
Browse to a Web page. (Typically, a page that contains a news article or other story works best.) If Reading view is available, the Reading view icon will be enabled (in black, not gray) on the toolbar. Click on that icon (it looks like a book)...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Microsoft Edge Reading View)
The page is reformatted in a style that makes it easier to read...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Microsoft Edge Reading View Active)
And last but certainly not least: Would you like to talk to your PC to control it, rather than type or use the mouse? You can do that via Windows Speech Recognition. Here's how to give it a try.
Open Control Panel and click on the icon for Speech Recognition...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Control Panel Speech Recognition)
At the Speech Recognition screen, click on the link to “Start Speech Recognition,” then click Next...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Enable Speech Recognition)
Choose the type of microphone you’re using, such as a headset microphone, desktop microphone, or another type. Click Next, and then Next again...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Select Microphone)
Then read the sentence that appears in the window. Click next after you read the sentence. If the volume checks out, Windows should tell you that the microphone is set up...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Adjust Microphone Volume)
Next, you can click on the option to "Enable document review," whereby Windows scans your documents indexed by Windows Search to see what type of words you use on a regular basis. Click Next...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Document Review)
At the following screen, choose manual or voice activation for Speech Recognition, then click Next...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Activation Mode)
On the following screen, you can click on the View Reference Sheet button to see a Web page with the commands you can speak through Speech Recognition. Click Next...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Print Reference Card)
On this screen, decide if you want Speech Recognition to load automatically each time Windows launches...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Speech Recognition on Startup)
At the next screen, you can choose to take a tutorial to practice speaking the commands for Speech Recognition. This helps Windows learn the tone, style, and pattern of your voice, so it’s a good idea to run the tutorial. Do that by clicking "Start Tutorial"...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Speech Recognition Tutorial)
After you’ve completed the tutorial, you can now start talking to Windows. You’ll see a small toolbar at the top of the screen with buttons to turn the speech recognition on and off...
How to Make Windows 10 Easier to See, Hear, and Use (Hey Cortana!)
With the feature turned on, you can now start issuing commands and dictating text.

Oh, and remember that in Windows 10, you also have Cortana, which can listen to and act on your commands as well. To enable Cortana to respond to the sound of your voice, click in the Cortana search field and click on the Settings icon. At the Cortana settings pane, turn on the option to “Let Cortana respond to ‘Hey Cortana.’” You can now say “Hey Cortana” to get the voice assistant’s attention and speak your command, question, or request.


Yash

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