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Improving Visual Access using Windows' Built-in Schemes

Experimenting with alternative font styles, colours and sizes can make accessing a computer easier and more comfortable for everyone. It is especially important for people who struggle to read text either because of visual impairment or a reading difficulty associated with a condition such as scotopic sensitivity or dyslexia.

Is this the right tutorial?

You can improve visual access to Windows using the following three methods:




Screen Tinter Lite

Allows you to change the text and background in colour in three clicks. Applies to Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer. Does not enlarge fonts.

Windows Control Panel Built-in Schemes

Allows you to select from a list of pre-made schemes, including large fonts. Applies to the whole of Windows, including Internet Explorer and Word.

Windows Control Panel Fine-Tuning

Allows you to fine-tune each aspect of Windows to suit your exact needs. This includes setting exact font sizes and colour schemes across all programs including Word and Internet Explorer.

Using Windows' Built-in Schemes

This tutorial takes you step-by-step through the process of selecting and enabling a Windows XP pre-built scheme. These schemes were first introduced into Windows 95 and have not really changed since then. This is disappointing as they rarely meet the needs of the majority of my clients. Fortunately it is possible to fine-tune the pre-built schemes but this is more complex to achieve and there are peculiar restrictions which limit effectiveness.

Top Tip 1

It is possible to switch between Windows' standard scheme and the 'alternative' scheme through a single key combination... [more]

Opening the Control Panel

Select Control Panel from the Start Menu

Open up the Windows Control Panel by going to Start and selecting Control Panel from the menu.

If there is no Control Panel in your Start Menu then your school's technician or network administrator has stopped you from being able to access it!

Windows Key, Arrow Keys (to select Control Panel), Enter

Control Panel

In the Control Panel, double-click the display Display icon.

D (until Display is highlighted), Enter

If your Control Panel is shown in Category View then click the link that reads 'Switch to Classic View'.

F6 (until the task pane is highlighted)

TAB (until 'Switch to Classic View' is highlighted)


Display Appearance

The Display Properties window should pop up. Choose the Appearance tab.

CTRL + TAB (until Appearance is highlighted)

Under Windows and Buttons you be able to see whether your computer is in Windows XP Style or Windows Classic.

The former is the slick, modern, usually rather blue interface that was born alongside Windows XP. The latter looks more like the Windows 98 interface.

For the benefits of accessibility we need to stick with the Classic interface. Change it if you have to.

ALT + W, Up Arrow

The quickest way of adjusting the sizes and colours of your Windows components is to select a pre-made scheme from the list.

Click on the Color Scheme drop-down box. As you select different schemes you should notice the preview box updating.

ALT + C, Up/Down Arrow

You may notice that the schemes don't only affect colours as the label might suggest but also font sizes and styles. Click on Rose and you'll notice it uses a larger font with a Times New Roman style. Move up to Pumpkin and the font is larger still, and if you look at the Font Size drop-down box below you'll notice it says 'Large' where previously it probably said 'Normal'.

Click on the Font-Size drop-down box while Pumpkin is still selected and you'll notice that you have no choice but to use the large fonts.

ALT + F, Up/Down Arrow (there are no other options)

This is quite common throughout the entire list with the exception of the High Contrast and Windows Standard/Classic schemes. For some reason the Rose and Lilac schemes also have a Large Fonts option.

Now what happens if you find that the Pumpkin scheme suits you the best (it's nice and calm - good for photophobia) but the font sizes are too large?

Or you like the Rose colours but don't like that horrid Serif font?

I have a separate tutorial that takes you through the process of fine-tuning the windows display.

Top Tip 2

You can use the Windows schemes, amongst other methods, to reduce the glare of the screen which can in return reduce headaches and eye fatigue... [more]

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