Tech Tips: Low- and No-Cost Computer Access Technology

Dan Comden, DO-IT Staff

By taking advantage of built-in features of common operating systems and software, as well as using free versions of some software, providing access for computer users with disabilities may not be as expensive as you think!

Keyboard/Mouse Access

Windows™ 95 and Newer

In the Accessibility Options Control Panel:

  • StickyKeys allows sequential strokes instead of simultaneous key presses.
  • MouseKeys provides a mouse alternative.
  • FilterKeys prevents unwanted keystrokes.

Apple™ OS 9 and Older

The Easy Access Control Panel may need to be installed. Features similar to the Windows™ options described above can be found there.

Apple™ OS X

Use the Universal Access System Preferences tool to enable the features listed above. The Keyboard System Preferences module enables increased keyboard access to programs and the operating system.

Increase Visibility

Reducing the screen resolution via the Display Control Panel may be sufficient for someone with low vision.

Windows™ 98 and Newer

In the Accessibility Options Control Panel:

  • Turning on High Contrast offers enlargement and other features that may be useful.
  • Use the Accessibility Wizard in the Accessibility Options Control Panel to turn on the Magnifier.

Apple™ OS 9 and Older

The CloseView Control Panel provides rudimentary enlargement and inverse colors.

Apple™ OS X

The Universal Access System Preferences Tool allows enlargement and color switching with the Zoom tool.

Text to Speech

ReadPlease™ ( is a free text-to-speech reader that will speak items copied from the Clipboard for Windows-based computers.

Windows™ 2000 and Newer

The Narrator tool is accessed via the Accessibility Wizard (WindowsKey + U).

Apple™ OS 9 and Older

The SimpleText editor has the ability to speak highlighted text. Cut and paste text from other applications to have it spoken. Many other programs may have the option to speak selected text as well, via the Edit menu.

Apple™ OS X

Within the Speech System Preferences module is a control to turn on text-to-speech. This will also announce some dialog boxes and any selected text. You can define the key to activate this feature as well. You can enable the system to speak any text the mouse goes over in this control, as well as have it announce errors or system popups.