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Read text aloud in Windows XP with Narrator

Narrator is a text-to-speech utility for users who are blind or have impaired vision. Narrator reads what is displayed on your screen: the contents of the active window, menu options, or the text you have typed.

Narrator is designed to work with Notepad, Wordpad, Control Panel programs, Internet Explorer, the Windows desktop, and Windows setup. Narrator may not read words aloud correctly in other programs.

Narrator has several options that allow you to customize the way screen elements are read.

  • You can have new windows, menus, or shortcut menus read aloud when they are displayed.
  • You can have typed characters read aloud.
  • You can have the mouse pointer follow the active item on the screen.
  • You can adjust the speed, volume, or pitch of the voice.

The accessibility tools that ship with Windows are intended to provide a minimum functionality level for users with special needs. Most users with disabilities will need utility programs with more advanced functionality for daily use.

  • To open Narrator, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, point to Accessibility, and then click Narrator.
  • To open Narrator using the keyboard, press CTRL+ESC, press R, type narrator, and then press ENTER.
  • Narrator is not available for all languages and is only supported on the English version of Windows XP.
  • An easy way to start Narrator is to press the Windows logo key (Windows logo key) + U. Narrator is set to start by default when Utility Manager starts. However, Narrator may not start if your computer does not have text-to-speech program capability.
  • Utility Manager enables users to check an Accessibility program's status and start or stop an Accessibility program. Users with administrator-level access can designate to have the program start when Utility Manager starts. Users can also start Accessibility programs before logging on to the computer by pressing the Windows logo key (Windows logo key) + U at the Welcome to Windows dialog box that appears when Windows starts.

Type using a pointing device or joystick with On-screen Keyboard in Windows XP

On-Screen Keyboard is a utility that displays a virtual keyboard on the screen and allows users with mobility impairments to type data using a pointing device or joystick. On-Screen Keyboard is intended to provide a minimum level of functionality for users with mobility impairments.

On-Screen Keyboard has three typing modes you can use to type data:

  • In clicking mode, you click the on-screen keys to type text.
  • In scanning mode, On-Screen Keyboard continually scans the keyboard and highlights areas where you can type keyboard characters by pressing a hot key or using a switch-input device.
  • In hovering mode, you use a mouse or joystick to point to a key for a predefined period of time, and the selected character is typed automatically.

In On-Screen Keyboard you can also:

  • View an enhanced keyboard that includes the numeric keypad, or a standard keyboard that does not include the numeric keypad.
  • Display the keyboard with the keys in the standard layout, or in a block layout in which the keys are arranged in rectangular blocks. Block layout is especially useful in scanning mode.
  • Display the U.S. standard keyboard (101 keys), the universal keyboard (102 keys), or a keyboard (106 keys) with additional Japanese language characters.
  • Use Click Sound to add an audible click when you select a key.
  • Use Always on Top to keep your keyboard displayed on your screen when you switch programs or windows.

The accessibility tools that ship with Windows are intended to provide a minimum functionality level for users with special needs. Most users with disabilities will need utility programs with more advanced functionality for daily use.

  • To open On-Screen Keyboard, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, point to Accessibility, and then click On-Screen Keyboard.
  • The program in which you want to type characters must be active while you are using On-Screen Keyboard.
  • Utility Manager enables users to check an Accessibility program's status and start or stop an Accessibility program. Users with administrator-level access can designate to have the program start when Utility Manager starts. Users can also start Accessibility programs before logging on to the computer by pressing the Windows logo key (Windows logo key) + U at the Welcome to Windows dialog box that appears when Windows starts.
  • The accessibility tools that ship with Windows are intended to provide a minimum functionality level for users with special needs. Most users with disabilities will need utility programs with more advanced functionality for daily use. For information about accessibility products and aids for Windows operating systems, see the accessibility page (go to http://www.microsoft.com/ and search for "accessibility") on the Microsoft Web site.

Make it easier to focus on tasks in Windows Vista

You can reduce the amount of information on your screen so that it's easier to read, and you can set up your keyboard to make typing more comfortable.

You can adjust these settings on the Make it easier to focus on tasks page in the Ease of Access Center.

Open Ease of Access Center:

  • by pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + U.
    or
  • Click on the Start button, then All Programs, then Accessories, then Ease of Access, then click on Ease of Access Center.

Select the options that you want to use:

  • Turn on Narrator.
    This option sets Narrator to run when you log on to Windows. Narrator reads aloud on-screen text and describes some events (such as error messages appearing) that happen while you're using the computer.
  • Remove background images.
    This option turns off all unimportant, overlapped content, and background images to help make the screen easier to see.
  • Turn on Sticky Keys.
    This option sets Sticky Keys to run when you log on to Windows. Instead of having to press three keys at once (such as when you must press the CTRL, ALT, and DELETE keys together to log on to Windows), you can use one key by turning on Sticky Keys and adjusting the settings. This way, you can press a modifier key and have it remain active until another key is pressed.
  • Turn on Toggle Keys.
    This option sets Toggle Keys to run when you log on to Windows. Toggle Keys can play an alert each time you press the CAPS LOCK, NUM LOCK, or SCROLL LOCK keys. These alerts can help prevent the frustration of inadvertently pressing a key.
  • Turn on Filter Keys.
    This option sets Filter Keys to run when you log on to Windows. You can set Windows to ignore keystrokes that occur in rapid succession or keystrokes that are held down for several seconds unintentionally.
  • Turn off all unnecessary animations.
    This option turns off animation effects, such as fading effects, when windows and other elements are closed.
  • Choose how long Windows notification dialog boxes stay open.
    This option sets how long notifications are displayed on the screen before they are closed.

Make items on the screen appear bigger with Magnifier in Windows Vista

Magnifier enlarges part of the screen. This is especially useful for viewing objects that are difficult to see. It's also helpful for people who generally have difficulty seeing the screen.

To open Magnifier:

  • Click on the Start button, then All Programs, then Accessories, then Ease of Access, then click on Magnifier.

Move the pointer to the part of the screen that you want to magnify.

Change any of the following Magnifier settings:

To invert the colors for better readability Select Invert Colors.
This might be useful if, for example, a document has black text on a white background, but for you, white text on a black background is easier to read.

To dock the Magnifier window to the edge of the screen
Select Docked, and then click a location from the Dock Position list.

To keep the Magnifier settings dialog box minimized when you open Magnifier
Select Minimize on Startup.

To resize the Magnifier window.
Move the mouse pointer over the edge of the magnification window until the pointer becomes a double-headed arrow (on some computers, the pointer might change to a different form).

Drag the window border to resize the window.

To move the Magnifier window.
Move the mouse pointer over the magnification window.
Drag the window to where you want it on your desktop.

To see an enlarged version of what your mouse is pointing at
Select Follow mouse cursor.

To see the area where your pointer moves when you press the TAB or arrow keys
Select Follow keyboard focus.

To see what you're typing
Select Follow text editing.

In the Scale Factor list, select a level. The zoom level in the Magnifier window will change right away. Adjust the level until it's right for you.

Hear text read aloud with Narrator in Windows Vista

Windows comes with a basic screen reader called Narrator that reads text on the screen aloud and describes some events (such as an error message appearing) that happen while you're using the computer.

To open Narrator:

  • Click on the Start button, then All Programs, then Accessories, then Ease of Access, then click on Narrator.

To choose the text Narrator always reads

Under Main Narrator Settings box, do one or more of the following:

To hear what you type
Select the Echo User's Keystrokes checkbox.

To hear background events, such as notifications
Select the Announce System Messages checkbox.

To hear an announcement when the screen scrolls
Select the Announce Scroll Notifications checkbox.

To start Narrator Minimized

Select the Start Narrator Minimized checkbox.

The next time you start Narrator, it will appear as an icon on the taskbar instead of being open on your screen.

Notes:

  • To restore the Narrator dialog box to its full size, click Narrator in the taskbar.

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