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Electronic Resources : Enhancing Accessibility

Access updates and instruction for electronic resources at Rolfing Library

Optimize Your Computer Setup

Computer setup is customizable and also reversible. It does not delete files or disrupt the functionality of your computer. Customization options and accessibility features are usually documented in the "help" menu of your software. Look for customization options in menu items such as "options", "preferences", "settings", and "accessibility". Experiment with changing some of the settings you find to see if the changes improve your web experience. Exploring and getting to know your computer are the first steps to an accessible and enjoyable web browsing experience.

In some cases it may be necessary to download and install a web browser or media player that works better for you. In other cases it may be necessary to obtain and install additional software, including browser-based tools (sometimes called "add-on" or "extension"), or hardware devices. Some of these steps, such as installing a new web browser or browser-based tools, do not require technical expertise or particular skills. However, finding the optimal setup for you will greatly improve your efficiency.

Note: Several public institutions such as libraries and schools, user organizations such as those for people with disabilities or older people, and assistive technology vendors, provide computer training courses.

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Difficulty Seeing and Reading Websites?

Enlarging Text and Images

In Your Web Browser:

Most web browsers will allow you to simply enlarge and reduce text and image sizes through the options in the menu bar, or by pressing "Ctrl +" and "Ctrl -" or other keyboard combinations (see browsing the Web by keyboard for more information on keyboard commands). However, these changes are often temporary and may be lost when you open a new browser window or the next time you start your web browser. To make text and images appear larger by default in your web browser, you need to modify the settings of the web browser.

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In Your Operating System:

You can also change the default display settings in the operating system of your computer, which will apply to all your applications, rather then changing only the settings of your web browser. You can increase the default font-size which will make the text, but not the images, appear larger in all your applications. Alternatively, you can decrease the resolution of your display which will make all content appear larger but generally reduce the quality of the text and images. Increasing the "dots per inch - DPI" value has a similar effect on enlarging the text and images without losing quality. However, this feature is not supported by all operating systems and computer screens, so that it may not be available to you.

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Difficulty Hearing Audio on Websites?

Make sure that any multimedia devices attached to your computer such as loud-speakers, headphones, or earplugs are properly attached. Some devices may have buttons or controls on them to switch them on, adjust the volume, or to make other adjustments. Make sure that these devices are setup optimally for you.

Adjusting the Volume

Some keyboards have volume-increase and volume-decrease buttons that will adjust the volume level to your preference. In addition, you can adjust the volume and other sound options from the settings in the operating system of your computer. Depending on the loud-speakers and other sound devices attached to your computer, there may additional volume and sound controls to adjust. Software tools that are used to show video or listen to audio are called "media players". Sometimes they are embedded into the web browser, and they usually have additional volume controls too. Be sure to adjust these options, and to make sure that the sound output of the system or the speakers is not muted.

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Difficulty Typing and Using Your Keyboard?

Typing can be strenuous if the keyboard is not in an optimal position, or if the keys or keyboard design are not comfortable for you. Keyboards have keys with various shapes and sizes, and with different levels of softness. They also have different layouts and shapes that effect your arm and wrist positions. Make sure your keyboard is optimal for you, and consider replacing your keyboard if needed.

Browsing the Web by Keyboard

Many software applications, including web browsers, can be operated through the keyboard. Web browsers generally support the "Tab" key to jump from one link or form control to the next. Sometimes these links or controls may not be visible on the screen, or it may be difficult to identify which one is selected. The status bar of the browser window may indicate where a link leads to, and sometimes enlarging text and images helps you identify the links or controls on the web page. Other common keyboard commands include:

  • "Enter" - activates links or controls such as form submit buttons
  • "Page-Down", "Page-Up", and "Arrow" keys - scroll within the web page
  • "Alt Arrow-Left" and "Alt Arrow-Right" - move back and forth in the history
  • "Ctrl T", "Ctrl Tab", and "Ctrl W" - create, switch between, and close browser tabs

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Difficulty Using the Mouse?

Pointing devices, such as the mouse or the touchpad on some laptop computers, can be difficult to use. There are a number of alternate devices which may be more optimal for you, and there are many settings that can be customized, including slowing down the mouse or enlarging the mouse-pointer on the screen.

Adjusting the Mouse Settings

Most computer operating systems provide options to adjust the mouse settings. In particular, you can adjust the sensitivity of the mouse to movement, in order to slow it down. You can also adjust the period between two clicks that is needed to initiate a "double-click" (typically used to launch software applications from the desktop), or you can adjust the configuration of the mouse buttons for left-hand or right-hand use. Many web browsers also support "mouse gestures", so that specific mouse movement or mouse-button patterns can be set as shortcuts to computer commands.

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