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Atechability

Atechability Number 3: Let’s Play The Keyboard

Introduction

“Wait a moment. I don’t even know about music, and this guy wants us to play a keyboard? I’m outa here!” Silly readers! We are not talking about musical keyboards here. Did you know you can perform a wide range of keyboard shortcuts on a computer without needing to use a mouse all the time? Yes, that is correct! You can perform quite a few commands on a keyboard using everyday tasks such as word processing, emailing, etcetera. On this post, we are covering some of the MANY keyboard shortcuts that can be done. Many of these can be used on both Windows and Mac. Read on, and we will show you how!

Notes About Shortcut Notation in This Post

When this post gives a keyboard shortcut, it will have a “Plus sign, (+)” to indicate pressing more than one key at the same time. For example, when we say, “Press “Alt+F,”” this does not mean to press all those three keys at the same time. In this case, the four keys, because to make a plus, you do a “Shift” and “Equals, (=)” key at the same time. Ouch! My hand just hurts thinking of the Twister game I’d have to play to get all those keys pressed! The correct way to do that is just to press “Alt,” and “F” at the same time. Nothing more, nothing less. Also, if you see a key with the letter “F,” and a number after it, such as “F1,” you can find these keys on the very top row of your keyboard. These are called “Function Keys.” They have different purposes in different apps. “F1,” is used to bring up a help system in many apps. Sometimes, those do not work on laptops. No worries! You can press the “Function” key, which is located to the left of the “Windows” key on the bottom left side in conjunction with the function key on the top row in question, and it works great! With the notes out of the way, let’s teach some basics!

Editing commands

When using word processors such as “Microsoft Word,” or Apple’s “Pages,” you have a wide selection of keyboard shortcuts you can use to cut, copy, paste, etcetera. Remember, You DO NOT, need the mouse to use these. NOTE: these work on both Windows and Mac. These also work on other applications that allow you to work with text such as Powerpoint, Excel, and even Outlook. (Numbers, Keynote, and Mail, are the Mac equivalents.) Microsoft does make Office apps for the Mac as well. Following are some common commands to get started.

Text Manipulation Commands

  • “Control+x”: Cut text to the clipboard after highlighting it. This essentially removes the selection from the document, so you can paste it somewhere else or just not use it.
  • “Control+C”: Copies highlighted text to the clipboard.
  • “Control+V”: Pastes text from the clipboard at the location of your cursor.
  • “Control+a”: Select ALL the text. This highlights EVERYTHING that has been typed. From top, to bottom.
  • “Control+Z”: Undo Last Action. This will be EVERYONE’s favorite command, especially if you make many mistakes with deleting something accidentally. Just remember, this does not work on pencil and paper. To an acquaintance, if you read this, that’s still helarious about you trying to press this command on paper!

Decorating Text

No, this does not mean that text can be decorated with glitter or anything like that. These commands allow you to do things such as bolding, italic, etcetera. These commands are toggles. Meaning, when you press the command, text you write will be either italicized, underlined, or written in bold until you press the command again to turn the text attribute off. However, there is an exception to this rule. If you already have text on screen that you want to underline, bold, etcetera, you press the command once after highlighting it. Then, you can move on with life. Here are the commands for the main formatting of text.

  • “Control+B”: Bold.
  • “Control+I”: Italic.
  • “Control+U”: Underline.
  • “Control+E”: Center text. (This is NOT a toggle.)
  • “Control+D”: Open the font settings box to change more text attributes.

Basic File Manipulation Commands

You can also open and make new documents using the keyboard. Here are some basics:

  • “Control+N”: create a new document.
  • “Control+O”: open a document.
  • “Control+P”: print a document.
  • “Control+s”: save a document.
  • “Control+F”: Find text in a document.

Emailing Commands

Many email clients have different commands to operate them. However, here are some commands that Outlook and Mail for Mac use.

  • “Control+N”: new message.
  • “Control+S”: Send message.
  • “Control+R”: Reply to a message.
  • “Control+F”: Forward a message.

All the commands listed on the “Word Processing” section work in email messages as well.

Some Windows Shortcut Keys

When using the Windows Operating System, you can get to parts of it with just one key press. Try these next time you use a computer.

  • “Windows” key or “Control+Escape”: Open the Start menu.
  • “Applications” key, or “Shift+f10”: Double right click on something to open the context menu. For example, if this is done on a file, you could rename it, delete it, or view its properties.
  • “Alt+F4”: Exit an application, or if done from the desktop, asks you if you wish to shut down, or restart Windows.
  • “Windows+A”: Open the action center. (Notifications)
  • “Windows+C”: Ask Cortana, Windows’ personal assistant a question or request to do a certain action, depending on your need.
  • “Windows+x”: Open a list of common actions on Windows, such as going to settings, or opening the task manager.

Epilogue

There are many more shortcuts that you can use, but these were just the basics to get you started! One thing that should also be mentioned, is if you have a bluetooth keyboard connected to a smartphone or tablet, most of these commands work here as well! Let us know if you would like more shortcut commands, and we will bring another post with nothing but more new ones. Happy keyboarding!

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Atechability

Atechability Number 2: Zoom, Zoom, Zoom! With Magnifiers

Main Introduction

Welcome to another installment of Atechability! This time, we’re changing things up a bit and presenting you, a contributed post! This post is brought to you by a teacher who works with the blind and visually impaired students in a public school system. Please NOTE: The views expressed on this, or any future contributor post, are those of the contributor, and do NOT represent Screenless Allies as a whole.

Pre-post Background

If you recall, on the Previous Installment, I covered screen readers for the blind. Now, we are moving to the visually impaired spectrum. That is, a person who has some functional vision, compared to a person with full 20/20 vision. These individuals require the use of larger text or images on screen in order to see them correctly. For example, if a visually impaired person receives a letter with standard print, that letter has to be increased about double or more of a font size in order for them to see it clearly. This can depend on how much vision the person has. Just like screen readers, most devices come with features built in to allow visually impaired people to use them easily and efficiently. This post will tell you all about turning these features on. Without any further ado, let’s read what our contributor shared on this matter!
BEGIN CONTRIBUTOR POST

Introduction

In my years of working with individuals with visual impairments, I have seen a drastic change in the accessibility features that are built into most operating systems. There was a time when there was almost nothing available, unless you spent hundreds of dollars on specialized software programs. Today, most devices come with built in features that enable a person with a visual impairment to access information.

Windows

Let’s start with the most common operating system, Windows. You have two ways of turning on magnification. The first is to press the “Windows logo” key and the “Plus (+) sign,” which is done by pressing the “Shift” and “Equals (=)” keys at the same time. You can also press the “start” icon, select “settings,” then “Ease of Access” and locate “Magnifier.” There is a toggle under “Turn on Magnifier” that allows you to use the above keyboard shortcut to operate it. To turn off the magnifier, press “Windows” with “Escape.” To increase magnification, press “Windows” Key and the “+ (Plus sign, which again is “Shift and Equals (=)” key).” To decrease magnification, Press “Windows” and the “-” (“Hyphen”) keys at the same time.

iOS

Next, let’s talk about the popular iOS devices. Go to “settings,” then “Accessibility,” (“General” then “Accessibility” for iOS 12 and below), then select magnifier. turn the toggle to on, then you can triple click the home button to activate the magnifier. This allows you to magnify something you are looking at through the lens of the camera. The feature that allows you to magnify your screen is called “Zoom.” You also access this through the “Accessibility” settings in iOS. Once enabled, you must “double tap” (tap twice) the screen with 3 fingers to activate the Zoom window. “Double tap” the screen with 3 fingers again to deactivate the Zoom window. To move the window around, use 3 fingers and drag the window around the screen. In the “Zoom” settings category under “Accessibility,” you can also change from a zoom window to a zoom screen. I prefer the screen to the window, because it allows me to move a little easier.

Android

Android also has a zoom feature, and it works similarly to iOS. In my personal opinion, it is more user friendly. You find this in the device’s “Settings” app, under “Accessibility” (found under “Device” then “Accessibility” for some devices) and locate “Vision Enhancements,” then “magnification.” Once you have turned on the “Magnification” feature, you “Triple tap” (Tap three times) the screen with one finger to turn magnification on. Triple tap with one finger again to turn magnification off. To move around the screen, hold two fingers on the screen.

Chromebooks

One last device to talk about is the Chromebook, because it has become popular with many school districts. It is very similar to the commands in windows. Use “Control” and the “+” (“Shift and Equals)” key to increase magnification and Control and the “-” (“Hyphen)” key to decrease magnification. To reset your Zoom to normal you press “Control and the “0” key.
END OF CONTRIBUTOR POST

Macintosh Computers

The Mac computer also has zoom capabilities. To activate this, go to the “Apple” menu, locate “System Preferences,” and find “Accessibility.” From there, locate “Zoom,” and turn it on. The same commands for Windows and Chrome are used to increase or decrease the Zoom parameter, except you add the “Option” key, and substitute “Control” for the “Command” key in this combination. If you are using a trackpad on the Mac, you can hold down “Control,” then drag two fingers on the trackpad up to zoom in, or down, to zoom out.

Notes

You can use a screen reader and these features at the same time. The gestures will NOT get in the way of the screen reader’s gestures or keyboard commands. On iOS, when you “Tripple press” the “Home” or “Side” button, depending on the iOS device you are using, and have VoiceOver running as well as the magnifier, VoiceOver will present you with a “Select Shortcut” option. Here, navigate to “Magnifier” if you wish to turn that on or off. Many modern TV’s such as the Apple TV, Android TV, and the Amazon Firestick also have this feature. Again, thank you to the contributor for allowing me to use this post for the low vision side of things! Look out for more contributions from this teacher in the future! If you have any questions about technology in general, or the topic of screen magnification, please feel free to contact us and we will be more than happy to assist you with these features! Happy zooming and magnification!

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Atechability

Atechability Number 1: Talk Out of The Box

Technology now a days has gotten very modern for blind and visually impaired users. There is mostly no need for software to be specially installed on devices to work. Most devices now have accessibility features built in, and on this post, we will guide you on how to turn these on for a few devices in the mainstream market. Before we do that, though, here is a little explanation and background that may be useful.

What is Accessibility?

Accessibility, to put it simply, is the user friendliness of a device or an app on a computer or mobile device. For example, if you hear, “This is not accessible to (Disability group),” it basically means, that group cannot use the features of a device or app. This can be for blind and visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, or people with motor disabilities. The list can go on. In this post, we’re focusing on the blindness specific features, which, in this case, is a screen reader. A screen reader is basically a piece of software that reads the screen to a user. It is probably a trick definition, but that is essentially what it is. A screen reader can be controlled using a keyboard, or special gestures if the device has a touch screen. You can also connect special devices called “braille displays,” to receive the output of the screen reader in braille. Essentially, this device is a screen, but for blind users, consisting of one line of braille cells. Most of these displays will let you operate the computer using its built-in controls, but remember that in order for the display to work, a screen reader MUST be used in conjunction with it. Screen readers talk to the user using synthetic voices, or as many people call it, “That robot man or woman.” Think of it this way. When you talk to your phone, there is not a human inside it talking back to you when you give it commands like, “What time is it?” It is a voice that has been built into the phone’s operating system. The same philosophy applies to screen readers. All this will be covered in future posts. For now, let’s focus on how to turn this screen reading feature on and off.

Personal Computers and Macs

PC’s and Mac computers both have different built-in screen readers. On the Windows side, the screen reader is called, “Narrator.” On the Macintosh side, the screen reader is called, “VoiceOver.” In fact, VoiceOver is on all Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad, etc.

Windows

Most PC’s come with Microsoft windows installed. NOTE: you can download other screen readers onto these computers, but this post will only focus on the built-in screen reader called, “Narrator.” To turn on Narrator, You can do one of the following:

  1. Press the “Windows,” and “Enter” keys at the same time on your keyboard. (If you have the 2018 Windows update and above, you add the “Control” key to this combination.)
  2. On a tablet, you can press the “Windows,” and “Volume up” buttons at the same time. Most tablets have these buttons on one of their sides. The “Volume” buttons should be below the “Windows” button.

If done correctly, you should hear, “Starting Narrator.” If you see the narrator screen pop up, but you do not hear sound, check your speaker settings to ensure everything is turned up.

Apple Macintosh Computers

On an Apple Mac computer, VoiceOver is the built-in screen reader. The Mac family of products do not have other screen readers you can download and use as an alternative like the Windows side. To turn on VoiceOver, on a Macbook 2015 and below, you can press the “Command” and “F5” keys at the same time. If you have a MacBook 2016 and up, you press the “Command” key, and press the “Touch ID Power” button three times. The reasoning on why it is called “Touch ID Power,” is because the “Power” button also serves as a fingerprint censor to unlock your mac. If you have Mac OS Sierra and above installed, you can also tell Siri to, “Turn on VoiceOver.”

Smartphones

Just like the personal computer side, screen readers for the blind also exist on modern smartphones, such as the Apple iPhone and Android devices. These screen readers can also be controlled using the phone’s built-in touchscreen, or you can connect a bluetooth keyboard or a braille display to control it. Please note, these steps on the following sections also apply to both companies’ tablet families, such as the iPad, or Google/Samsung tablets.

iPhone

To turn on VoiceOver on the iPhone, you can do one of the following:

  1. You can tell Siri to turn on VoiceOver by saying, “Turn on Voiceover.”
  2. Go to “Settings.” From there, tap “General,” then “Accessibility.” If you have IOS 13 and above, you do not need to tap “General,” since “Accessibility” was moved to the main part of the “Settings” app. Locate “VoiceOver” under the “Vision” heading, and tap on it. Tap on the switch to turn it on.
  3. You can press the “Home” or “Side” buttons three times in a row when setting up a phone for the first time. Depending on the phone you have, the “Home” button is found on the iPhone 8 and below, while the “Side” button is found on the iPhone 10 and above. You can also assign this shortcut to turn on VoiceOver by going into the “Accessibility” settings as described above, but instead of going to “VoiceOver,” you locate “Accessibility Shortcut,” or, “Triple Click Home.” Again, this depends on the version of IOS your phone is running.

In all these cases, you should hear, “VoiceOver on,” Followed by the prompt if you are sure you want to enable this feature. It will modify your gestures slightly, so here is a small list to get started.

  1. Swipe left or right with one finger: Moves the screen in those directions, depending which gesture was used.
  2. Double Tap: (Tap twice on the screen with one finger) Select an item. This is equivalent to a single tap.
  3. You can also drag your finger around the screen, and anything that is under your finger such as text, button, etcetera on the screen will be spoken.

Android

Android can have two built-in screen readers, depending on what phone you have. If you have a Google Pixel or an LG phone, for instance, this will come with a screen reader called “TalkBack.” If you have a Samsung device, it comes with a screen reader called “Voice Assistant.” Both screen readers are almost identical, except for different gestures for certain tasks, depending on which screen reader is used.

How to make Android phones “talk back” to you.

To enable TalkBack, do one of the following:

  1. When setting up an Android phone for the first time, tap and hold two fingers on the screen until you feel a vibration, or hear a beep. You should then hear, “Keep holding to turn on Accessibility mode.” Keep holding those two fingers on the screen until TalkBack speaks again.
  2. Once a phone is set up, go to the “Settings” app, then tap “Accessibility.” Some phones will have the Accessibility” option under “Device,” depending on the model of the phone. Find “TalkBack” under the “Vision” heading, and tap the switch to turn it on. In both of these situations, you will be presented with a tutorial, which will show you the basic gestures you will need to navigate the operating system. This tutorial can be skipped and done at a later time, but that is not recommended, especially if you are turning on TalkBack for the first time. The same three gestures that were listed above on the “iPhone” section apply here as well.
  3. If you wish to turn TalkBack on using a shortcut, you can do so by going into the “Settings” app, tapping “Accessibility,” (“Device,” then “Accessibility” on some phones) and locating a setting called, “Accessibility Shortcut,” or, “Volume Key Shortcut” on some devices. Tap this option, and enable the shortcut. Select “TalkBack” from the services list, found under the “Shortcut Service” item. It is also recommended to enable the, “Turn on within locked screen” option, so if a phone screen is locked, the user can still enable TalkBack. Once this is configured, you hold down both “volume up” and “Volume Down” buttons for three seconds, or until you hear the prompt, “TalkBack on.” You can do the same command to turn it off as well.

Voice Assistant

Voice Assistant is a Samsung device optimized screen reader. Most of their phones have this equipped and replaces TalkBack. However, if you wish to use TalkBack instead, you can download it from the Google Play Store. The same steps to turn on TalkBack apply to Voice Assistant as well. This screen reader also has a tutorial you can either complete or skip, before proceeding to set up the phone, or when launching the screen reader for the first time.

Chromebooks

The Chromebook from Google has become quite popular, especially in school settings. But do not fear! This too, has a built-in screen reader you can turn on to use the device. To toggle the ChromeVox screen reader, Press “Control,” “Alt,” and “Z” at the same time. This is a toggle, so if you press it again, it turns off. If you have a touchscreen version of a chromebook, you will hold down both “Volume Up” and “Down” keys for five seconds until you hear ChromeVox speak. Here are some basic commands to get you started. On a touch screen version, the commands used on iOS and Android apply here as well. For the keyboard side, the “Search” key will be your best friend. Use this key in conjunction with one of the following keys to move around the Chrome OS interface. To move to the right one screen element, press “Search” with “Right Arrow.” To move left one item, Press “Search” with “Left Arrow.” To select an item, press “Search” with “Space.”

Honorable Mentions

Not only do smartphones and PC’s have screen readers built in, but there are also an array of smart televisions and wearable devices that also have these. No worries, if you have a smart TV, don’t panic. It will not sing about it being ready to go on adventures, or if you want to be its friend, or even to hold it close so it can play with you when you turn on the screen reader. (TV Teddy, you are the creepiest teddy bear out there, just saying.) These screen readers include: VoiceOver for Apple TV and watch, Voice View for Amazon fire TV sticks, and TalkBack for Google and Samsung wearables.

What happens next?

Now that you have learned to enable the screen readers on many mainstream devices, you are now equipped to let a blind or visually impaired person use these! Or, you can pull a prank on your friends to see if they can disable the screen reader. (DISCLAIMER: We do NOT condone this behavior on a daily basis.) We hope this miniguide was helpful, and feel free to email us if you have any questions! Happy screen reading!