ideas for using Windows 10 with low vision
October 30, 2019 10:48 AM   Subscribe

A friend who's losing their vision recently got a Windows 10 PC. She's asked me to help her learn her way around. Please suggest what might be helpful

She mostly uses Word, Excel, and Gmail. I used to know Windows pretty well, though from a programmer's perspective, but would appreciate ideas for her to use.

She uses a very magnified view of the screen, and a tool which reads things aloud. I've given her some keyboard shortcuts (and will make a full list of shortcuts) as using the mouse seems awkward for her, and I'll change the screen colors and fonts to something move visible for her: e.g. red and black appear the same for her so maybe a white background with bold black text, and light grey for the taskbar and start menu? She asked me to change the color used for highlighting text but I have not yet found a way to do that. I'll experiment with changes on my own PC before trying them on hers, to avoid making things more difficult for her.
posted by anadem to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add that her goal is to learn to navigate without needing visual input, as she may lose all vision in a year or two, so things like different screen colors are an intermediate step.
posted by anadem at 10:51 AM on October 30, 2019

I've never used a screen reader but have witnessed them in action so definitely look into that. They are designed for people who are blind/low vision. It is a computer voice reading the screen which I found difficult to understand due to the fact I'm hard of hearing, so if your friend also has hearing loss, that's something to discuss.
Edit: I just reread your question and see that my eye jumped over the bit where you mentioned that your friend seems to already have a screen reader.
posted by acidnova at 11:00 AM on October 30, 2019

Best answer: If she's also willing to look at hardware, there are high-contrast keyboards for people with low vision. MrsMogur used one for a time, and swore by it.
posted by Mogur at 11:07 AM on October 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Colour filters may help? If you're finding it awkward to change the screen colours, there's a guide here -- navigating to these settings in Windows 10 isn't as intuitive as it could be, but it's pretty easy once you get to the right menu.

I assume she's already using Narrator, which is built-in, but this guide might help you both get it set up in a way that works well for her. If she's mostly using Excel and Word, you can find Windows-app-specific guides here.

If Narrator isn't meeting her needs, there are other options to explore. NVDA is open-source and free. A not-free but very popular alternative is JAWS.

If she would also like an easy way to read books on her device, Dolphin EasyReader offers a free 30-day trial for Windows. (The Android and iOS versions are free, if she has a smartphone.) Internet Archive has a pretty great (and free!) collection of accessible books for people with print impairments, and her local library may also have access to options for both leisure and work or study materials in audio formats or in formats that will work with a screen reader.
posted by halation at 11:18 AM on October 30, 2019

Best answer: I assume you've seen the Microsoft Accessbility site?
posted by oceano at 12:00 PM on October 30, 2019

Best answer: halation has the right of it. Those are all great resources.

If the end goal is to acclimate to using the PC without sight at all, it's best to get used to screen readers earlier than later, and if your friend is able to use their limited vision to understand how the screen reader and PC interact, so much the better. That style of interfacing is quite alien to people with vision. I should know since I relied on my vision for a long time before adapting to screen reader use almost exclusively and if I didn't have the visual input to help me bridge the gap it would have been much more difficult.

I may have missed it, but where is your friend located? There are very often non-profits and other organizations that fill these kinds of educational gaps for adults dealing with vision loss. You're an amazing friend for trying to help, but don't overextend. This is a huge task. I recommend availing yourself and your friend of any resources that are available to you.

Memailing you as well.
posted by Ephelump Jockey at 12:33 PM on October 30, 2019

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