Chapter 5:
Ease of Access

How to Use the Narrator in Windows 10 and Hear Text

The Narrator is an accessibility program that reads text on the screen aloud and provides audio feedback about events such as error messages. Technically, the Narrator makes it possible to use many of the PC’s functions without the display. This tool is meant to help those with eyesight problems or disability and it is usually paired along with the speech recognition tool to provide an excellent “hands-free” workflow in Windows.

Opening the Narrator

The Narrator can be started in a variety of ways. If you have a keyboard, the easiest method is to use the default keyboard shortcut which includes pressing the Windows key + the Enter key. There is also an easy shortcut for tablet devices where you can press the Windows logo button and the Volume Up button together to open the Narrator.

Another way to open the Narrator (if you cannot use the shortcut keys) is to do the following:

Open Settings.

Select the option Ease of Access and then select the Narrator.

You’ll see an on or off slider under the text “Narrator”. Switch it to turn on the Narrator.

Additionally, the Narrator is available in the sign-in screen along with other accessibility features. Just click on the Ease of Access button in the lower-left corner of the sign-in screen and select the accessibility tool that fits your needs.

To exit the Narrator you can use the same shortcut keys or follow the steps mentioned above to enter the Ease of Access center and switch the slider to turn off the Narrator.

To see all of the Narrator commands, press Caps Lock + F1 after you open the Narrator, or tap the touchscreen three times using four fingers.

To use Caps Lock while you're using the Narrator, quickly press the Caps Lock key twice.

NOTE: Narrator is available in English (United States, United Kingdom, and India), French, Italian, German, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin (Chinese Simplified and Chinese Traditional), Cantonese (Chinese Traditional), Spanish (Spain and Mexico), Polish, Russian, and Portuguese (Brazil).

Customizing the Narrator Settings

When you start the Narrator you will also see a lot of options that are available for you to customize.

Here’s a rundown of what these Narrator-specific options mean:

Voice. In this category you will be able to customize three settings that are related to the Narrator’s voice:

General (Sounds you hear). In this category you can customize how the Narrator should communicate with you when it comes to your interactions with various applications:

How to Use Speech Recognition in Windows 10

Speech recognition is an accessibility feature in Windows 10 that makes it possible to use Windows without a keyboard or a mouse. This has made Windows more accessible to a lot of people with disabilities, but also opened up another “hands-free” work methodology that a lot of people have included in their daily workflow.

Currently speech recognition is only available in these languages: English (United States and United Kingdom), French, German, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin (Chinese Simplified and Chinese Traditional), and Spanish.

In this guide we’ll show you how to set up and use speech recognition. You’ll learn just how easy it is to control your whole PC with your voice, as well as input commands and text via direct dictation.

How to Set up Speech Recognition in Windows 10

Before speech recognition can work on your PC you will need to prepare your microphone and get the PC to recognize your voice. The process is easy and we’ll guide you every step of the way. Let’s start with setting up the microphone (if you already have a working microphone then skip ahead):

Open Search.

Search for Windows Speech Recognition in the input box and select that app.

Follow the automatic installer instructions on the screen to set up your microphone and Speech Recognition.

Ideally you’d want to use a headset microphone in order to block-out as much background noise as possible.

The next step is to “train” your PC to recognize your speech.

The setup will give you a sentence that you have to speak into your microphone.

If you get an error message, there might be something wrong with your microphone or your device might be using its microphone instead of your headset microphone. Check the Sound settings to see which one it's using and change it to the one you want.

After you've set up your microphone, the setup will lead you through setting up Speech Recognition. The tutorial is very intuitive and it will explain every option in great detail.

Thanks to “machine learning”, the Speech Recognition program gets better over time the more you use it. Eventually your voice profile will become very clear and the program will have no trouble understanding you and distinguishing your speech from other sounds.

Now that your microphone is ready you can further improve Speech Recognition by doing the following:

Open Search.

Search for Speech Recognition in the input box and select that setting.

Click or tap on the option Train your computer to better understand you.

Follow the instructions provided by the automatic Voice Training utility. The tutorial is interactive and you’ll learn how to use the application. Once you’re done, the program will have your basic sound profile memorized.

Using Speech Recognition and Correcting Mistakes

Now that your microphone and voice profile are set, you can begin using speech recognition to perform tasks, issue commands to the operating system and even dictate text. To begin, run the program:

Open Search.

Search for Speech Recognition in the input box and select from the list (as seen on the screenshot below).

Tap or click on the microphone button to start the listening mode, or just say “start listening” to immediately activate the process.

To check if everything is running smoothly, open a text editor (Word or Notepad for example) and begin dictating.

Now just dictate a few simple sentences to get started and see how the speech recognition program reacts to your input.

At first, it is very likely that speech recognition will make mistakes when you dictate text. It is important to correct the application in order to help it learn and improve future results. In order to correct the last thing you said (a single word or an entire sentence) use the command “correct that”.

Commands for Easier Dictation with Speech Recognition

At first glance, dictation seems very easy to master, but eventually you may run into a couple of problems. For example, how can you use voice recognition to distinguish between a “comma” as a literal word and the punctuation mark?

Here are some great tips to help you avoid these common problems:

As for navigation across the document, there are a lot of intuitive commands that don’t require any explaining:

And the inverse applies:

The commands for deleting are also very simple:

How to Use the Magnifier Tool in Windows 10

The Magnifier tool is simple accessibility program that allows you to enlarge a part or the entirety of your screen. This enables you to see text and images better and it makes it easier for you to navigate your mouse cursor on the screen. The tool has been available since Windows XP, but it has kept improving over the years. The Windows 10 version of this utility program is especially interesting as it features support for touch devices.

In this guide you’ll learn how to turn on the Magnifier and customize it to fit your needs.

Opening and Using the Magnifier

Since the magnifier is an associability program there are a couple of ways to open it. The quickest one is by using the predefined keyboard shortcut:

Press the Windows logo key and the plus (“+”) sign at the same time.

The Magnifier tool will open in full-screen view, unless you’ve already made changes to your default settings.

If you like using keyboard shortcuts like this one, then you might be interested in our Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts guide. It covers all of the essentials, as well as the advanced shortcuts that can make your Windows experience better and more productive.

The second way to open the Magnifier tool is via mouse or touch input:

Open Settings.

Now tap or click on Ease of Access and then tap or click on Magnifier. This will open a window such as the one on the screenshot below. Move the slider so that the Magnifier is turned on.

Magnifier will now launch in full-screen view, unless you’ve changed this default setting previously.

Closing the Magnifier tool once you’re done using it is easy (although a bit unintuitive):

The quickest way is to simply use the keyboard shortcut (Windows key + Escape key).

You can also locate the Magnifier icon on the toolbar (a small magnifying glass icon), click or tap on it and select the Close option.

Understanding the Magnifier Views

If you’re using a mouse, then you can quickly change between the three different magnifier views. Here’s a quick explanation of how these views enable you to have a better experience:

The full-screen view does exactly what the name implies and your entire screen is magnified. While this is a great option to have, it comes with a big setback. Namely, since the whole screen will now be zoomed-in, you won’t be able to see the entire screen at the same time.

The lens view moves the magnifying screen around as you move your mouse around the screen. 

The docked view allows the Magnifier to take a fixed portion of your screen and “dock” itself at that position. As you move around the screen, the items that you are currently looking at will be magnified and displayed on the docked Magnifier tool.

You can choose whichever view suits your needs the best, but it is probably best to try them all out.

Sadly, the lens view and the docked view are tied with the mouse pointer and as such, it is not possible to get these accessibility options if you’re using touch input.

Using the Magnifier with Touch Input

Touch input has limited support with the Magnifier tool. The main problem is that some of the tool’s features are designed to follow the mouse cursor. However, opening the Magnifier in full-screen view allows you to enjoy the main benefits of the tool.

Here are a few tricks to make the experience even better:

  • Tap on the corners in order to zoom in and out.
  • You can move around the screen by dragging along the borders.
  • To see where you are currently on the screen, tap with two fingers on opposite borders.
  • Exiting the magnifier can be done quickly by tapping the “X” symbol.

Customizing the Magnifier Settings

Some of the Magnifier tool’s settings can be changed while the program is running. For example, you will notice that you can use the zoom buttons to change the level of zoom that the Magnifier is using to enlarge your screen. The shortcut keys for this are:

However, for more advanced settings you can open the Magnifier options:

You can set the pace at which the zoom changes when you zoom in or out.

You can turn on color inversions, which will reverse the colors on the screen. This might seem like a strange option, but the inverted colors can make the text a lot easier to read.

You can also customize the Magnifier focus point. By default, the Magnifier usually follows your mouse, but you can also select the data insertion point or the keyboard instead.

How to Use the On-Screen Keyboard in Windows 10

The On-Screen Keyboard (OSK) is an Ease of Access feature that provides a digital keyboard that can mimic the actions of a physical one. The OSK displays a visual keyboard, which features all the standard keys and allows you to easily use standard keyboard shortcuts.

However, this accessibility feature should not be confused with the touch keyboard. On touch-enabled devices, the touch keyboard is automatically activated whenever you tap on an input field. On the other hand, the On-Screen keyboard will remain active as long as the program is open and it can accept input from both touch taps and mouse clicks. Unfortunately, the OSK has only one layout and you cannot customize it as much as the touch keyboard.

In this guide you’ll learn how to use the On-Screen Keyboard, how to customize it and improve your workflow when using it.

How to Open and Use the On-Screen Keyboard

To open the On-Screen keyboard you can perform the following steps:

Open Search. Type in On-Screen Keyboard into the search field.

The application will show up at the top of the list. Click or tap on the item to open the On-Scree Keyboard program.

You might also find the On-Screen Keyboard to be a handy tool if you are in the sign-in screen and need to type-in your password. In order to open the OSK on this screen you can click on the Ease of Access button that is located in the lower-left corner of the sign-in screen.

Now that you’ve opened the On-Screen Keyboard, you can click or tap on the keys in order to use it like a virtual version of your physical keyboard. Feel free to open any text-editing program such as Word or Notepad in order to try it out.

Customizing the On-Screen Keyboard and Improving Your Workflow

The On-Screen Keyboard provides a rich options menu that allows you to customize the keyboard as well as improve your workflow. Once you’ve opened the On-Screen Keyboard you should click or tap on the Options key in order to bring up the OSK options menu.

It will have the following options:

Next Steps

If you were searching for information about the native touch keyboard for touch-enabled devices then you can visit our guide to using the touch keyboard in Windows 10. As for other accessibility features you can look at the full list of our Ease of Access guides.

How to Use Text or Visual Cues Instead of Sound in Windows 10

Microsoft works hard to make their operating system accessible to everyone and over the years, a lot of accessibility features have been developed. As the concept of notifications and sound cues grows more popular in software design, it is important to provide alternative solutions. Microsoft Windows 10 allows you to use textual and visual cues instead of system sounds. These alternative cues are great options for those who are hard of hearing or if you cannot always have sound on.

Enabling these settings will apply to the operating system messages and prompts as well as those that are generated by third-party applications.

Replace Sounds with Visual Cues

To replace sounds with visual cues via the Ease of Access Center do the following:

Open Search.

Type “Replace sounds with visual cues” into the search box and click on the utility tool of the same name.

Alternatively, you can open the Control Panel and type the same query into the search box there.

The settings page will have a couple of options. The options that you wish to set are:

Turn on visual notifications for sounds. This option will completely replace your system sounds with Microsoft’s custom visual cues. This visual cue is a screen flash and you can further customize it by selecting the following options:

Turn on text captions for spoken dialogue. This option will cause Windows to display text captions to indicate PC activities instead of using sound cues. These activates are usually status and warning messages, for example, if a device is disconnected or if a printer finishes printing documents.

Pairing with Other Accessibility Features

If you suffer from poor eyesight, but would like to switch to visual cues then you can start using the Magnifier tool. This accessibility tool will allow you to enlarge parts of your screen (or the entire screen for that matter) and it works great with visual cues. To get started read our guide on how to use the Magnifier tool in Windows 10.

For more advice on accessibility in Window 10, consult the index of our Ease of Access guide.

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