Just like earlier versions of Microsoft's OS, Windows 10 has a wide range of built-in ‘ease of access’ settings that make it much easier to use by people with a physical impairment of some kind.
Some of the settings are also invaluable for the able-bodied, though, particularly if your eyesight just isn’t what it used to be or your fingers aren’t fast enough to use certain Windows 10 features. Let’s take a look at what’s on offer.
1. Make everything bigger
Big monitors are great, but the high resolutions they work best with can make everything on them too small to see for some people. Fortunately, this is easily fixed.
Go to Start > Settings and click System in the window that opens. Click Display in the list of options on the left and use the slider on the right to increase the size of text, apps, Desktop icons and other parts of Windows in 25% increments. How far you can move the slider depends on your monitor resolution — high resolutions have lots of adjustment.
Click the Apply button, then log out and back into Windows to see the full effect. You might need to experiment a bit to get the best results.
2. Hear a description of everything on screen
For even more options, go to Start > Settings and click Ease of Access in the window that opens. These options are designed for people with disabilities and won’t all be useful for everyone, but we’ll look at each in turn anyway.
The first, Narrator, gives a computerised voice-over for what you see and do in Windows 10. Use the two toggles to enable Narrator and to Start Narrator automatically, and you’ll hear a computerised voice describe what’s happening on-screen. You can change the sound of the voice and what it applies to using the options below.
3. Use a virtual magnifying glass
Magnifier switches on a virtual magnifying glass to make everything on your monitor appear much bigger. The default is to magnify the entire screen by following the mouse pointer around, but this can be disorientating. So click the magnifying glass at the top left of your screen to display its options and select Views > Lens to switch to a magnified rectangle that follows the mouse pointer.
4. Switch to a high-contrast theme
High contrast switches the Windows 10 theme to one of several designed to be easier to see for people with severe visual impairment. None are really suitable for people with normal eyesight, but feel free to try them out.
You can also see how this is done in our Windows 10 Quick Tip video below:
5. Make video subtitles more visible
Closed captioning controls the appearance of subtitles and textual audio descriptions in video provided by Windows apps and Microsoft services. The defaults should be fine if you regularly use subtitles rather than listen to audio, but again, feel free to experiment.
6. Change how the keyboard works
Keyboard offers multiple options, including one to display an on-screen keyboard — useful if your keyboard stops working and all you have is your mouse. Other options worth investigating here are Sticky keys, which means you don’t need to keep the [Ctrl], [Alt] or [Shift] key pressed when using a keyboard shortcut; and Filter keys, which helps avoid accidental multiple key presses.
It’s also worth noting that pressing the [Alt] key in most places in Windows 10 will reveal all available the keyboard shortcuts for that window or application.
7. Make the mouse pointer bigger
Mouse is one of the most useful Ease of Access settings, since you can use it to make the mouse pointer much more visible by changing its size and colour. There's also an option to use the keys on the numeric keyboard (on the far right of most keyboards) to control the mouse, which is useful if your mouse doesn’t work.
8. Make the blinking cursor more obvious
You’ll find sundry other settings under Other options, including one to change the thickness of the cursor and how long to display on-screen notifications for. This can help if they always disappear from view before you’ve read them, though they’re always available in the Action Centre.