If you are finding it difficult to use your computer, tablet or phone because of a disability or health condition, explore ways to work differently. Here are some suggestions to get you started. Any support provided by the University is subject to operational requirements, and depends on the nature of the role.
PC users: Start with the Ease of Access Center on your PC, which you’ll find under the Control Panel. This provides improved accessibility such as increased font size for headings, and changes to mouse settings.
If you have a visual impairment or dyslexia and find a white screen difficult to use, you may also want to change the background colour of your screen. The method for doing this varies according to which version of Windows you are using. If you are using the Windows Aero theme in version 7 or later this doesn’t currently allow you to change the background colour. So first change the theme to Windows Classic or an Ease of Access theme. [Control Panel > Appearance and Personalisation]. Then scroll down to the bottom of page, where you can click on the Window Color icon to get a dialogue box. Click the downward arrow in the Item box to select Window. Then select Colour 1. If you click on Other you will be given a greater choice of colours. Select the one you want and click OK.
Mac users: the BBC has instructions on changing the background colour settings in Mac OS X.
AbilityNet has further information on making your computer, tablet or phone easier to use and also produces a range of factsheets.
All staff who use computers should have a regular Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessment. Each division has a DSE assessor, who should organise this. In some parts of the University the University is done through an online self-assessment form. If you are experiencing discomfort when using your computer, this is something you should raise, either through the regular assessment, or by contacting your DSE assessor directly. We are all different sizes and shapes, and may need our workspace set up differently. this is the route for asking about alternative equipment, such as computer mice, mouse mats, keyboards, document holders. Also raise any issues about your chair and desk.
If you are using work-provided equipment such as a laptop or tablet, remember that you need a good ergonomic set-up for these too.
ADSHE has collected some resources on using assistive technology with students with dyslexia. The emphasis is on free or open source software.
Evernote software lets you coordinate notes across different devices.
Balabolka is free software that reads text aloud in synthetic speech. The Open University have produced a useful guide to Balabolka.
Commercial products for text-to-speech include Claro and TextHelp Read & Write They have other features to help people with dyslexia, such as support with words that sound the same but are spelled differently. Phone apps are also available. Free trial downloads are usually available.
Newer versions of Vista software include speech recognition software.
Dragon Naturally Speaking software is the leading commercial product. A version for Macs is also available, Dragon Dictate.
Mindmapping software helps with planning, by presenting information visually. There are several free packages, including X-mind.
Commercial products include Sparkspace. Mind View gives the option of converting maps to GANTT charts for project management.
More specialist commercial software is available for people with a visual impairment which provides magnification and reads text aloud. It is possible to use a computer with no sight at all. Examples are Supernova and JAWS. Demonstration copies are available at ARACU.
New apps are constantly being developed that disabled people may find useful, so we are unable to maintain a list.
Assistive software generally comes with good instructions, often using short video clips to explain features. If you are getting support through Access to Work they recommend training too , which is carried out at your workplace by a visiting trainer.
If you work for a department that is directly supported by IT Services, such as UAS departments, order through IT Purchasing to benefit from the discounted prices negotiated by the University. If you work elsewhere in the University, ask your local IT support to liaise with IT Purchasing. This covers equipment and software.
Staff Disability Advisor