Software to help make computers more accessible
Some software packages, such as Windows, have built-in accessibilty options which can help people with sight impairments to use their computer more easily. There is also a wide range of software packages available specifically designed to make computers more accessible, some are free of charge and others vary in price. The main types of accessibility software are magnification, speech or a combination of both software packages.
Magnifaction software can magnify either the whole screen or sections of the screen, usually around the mouse cursor. The level of magnification, font and background colours can usually be adapted to suit the user depending on their level of vision. Speech software uses a synthesised voice to read what is on the screen and combined magnification and speech software packages integrates elements from both magnification and speech packages.
Accessibility software packages can be expensive and it can be difficult to decide on which software is right for you. Our Assistive Technology Workers can give you free advice before purchasing a package to make sure that it is suited to your needs and, if you have a computer, that it will be compatible. We also provide free training on different types of accessibility software and we're able to offer equipment and software on loan, so you can try it out at home for a few weeks.
We have listed some of the accessibility software packages that are available below; to find out more about each package, click on the name of the software you are interested in.
Combined speech and magnification software
- Supernova Magnifier and Speech
- Dolphin Guide
- ZoomText Magnifier/Reader
- Supernova Magnifier and Screen Reader
Help with using your computer
Most people with sight impairments have difficulty seeing the text on a computer screen and everyone has different needs when it comes to accessing their computer. Computer software packages usually have built-in accessibility options which allow you to magnify or change the appearance of the text, screen and mouse to make it easier to see and some have narrator options which reads text and commands to the user.
Keyboards can also be adapted in the following ways to make it easier for sight impaired people to type and input information into their computer:
- Large print, high contrast stickers, such as black on yellow or white on black can be used to replace existing letters on the keyboard to make them more visible.
- Large print keyboards are also available and are the same size as standard keyboards just with larger print of each key available with black letters on a white or yellow background, or white letters with a black background.
- Large keyboards can be purchased in alphabetical or QWERTY styles. These have buttons around twice the size of a standard keyboard so these are not recommended if you plan to learn to touch-type.
- The key letters for touch typists are J and F; these keys have a ridge allowing them to be identified by touch instead of by sight.