Adaptable Technology

Adaptations are readily available which can increase the usefulness of desktop or laptop computers and of touchscreen devices for people with a disability.

Accessible keyboard

Accessible keyboard (Photo: Sacramento County Public Law Library)

Although additional hardware may need to be purchased to assist some computer users, in many cases the accessibility settings that are already built into your WindowsMac OS or Linux (Ubuntu) operating systems may meet your needs. These don't involve any cost and should be assessed for suitability first.

My Computer My Way

To set up your computer so that it works for you and your needs the My Computer My Way web pages are a great web resource (from AbilityNet) which cover all aspects of computer screen accessibility. You can also find My Web My Way as part of the BBC Accessiblity pages(http://www.bbc.co.uk/accessibility/)

The information provided will help with making adjustments to:

  • The contrast, resolution and cursor size of your screen
  • Explaining how to adjust the audio and video settings of your PC
  • Use the zoom magnifier built into Windows and Mac OS
  • Tweak the keyboard and mouse settings for users with physical impairments.
  • Controlling sticky keys and key modifiers are good places to start.

See also AbilityNet's expert accessibility resources at https://www.abilitynet.org.uk/expert-resources

Speech to Text and Text to Speech

You can use the voice commands built into Windows, Mac OS and Linux (Ubuntu), however additional software is also available to use if desired.


Use speech to text dictation software to write emails, documents and navigate to web pages. Dragon Naturally Speaking is the most well known and is also available on mobile devices.


NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) is a free “screen reader” which enables blind and vision impaired people to use computers. It reads the text on the screen in a computerised voice. You can control what is read to you by moving the cursor to the relevant area of text with a mouse or the arrows on your keyboard. Some other products available are Thunder (Windows) and Browse Aloud (Windows/Mac)

Accessibility Standards


It is important that your website can be accessed, understood and easily navigated by disabled web users. The WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool will run a full evaluation of your website and alert you of any potential areas that may cause difficulties for visitors with a disability.

Mobile Accessibility

The Mobile Accessibility website list best practice information and details of reasonable adjustments you can make to your technology

Helpful Organisations


Ability Net have a established track record of providing accessibility information aimed at computer users working in charities or organisations in the community and voluntary sector. The website contains many downloadable guides, resources and factsheets about all aspects of accessible IT. For example, it is possible to control your computer by talking to it and Windows through voice activation.

They have produced an online assessment tool (http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/online-assessment/) which can help computer users set up their computer to suit their needs and an accessible guide to accessible technology (http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/easy/)

The website also links to suppliers of alternative input devices and adapted hardware such as rollerballs, switches, joysticks, ergonomic mice etc.

Go On Gold

As 43% of people with a disability have never been on-line, the Go On Gold campaign was originally set up to raise awareness about the barriers they encounter in accessing computers and the Internet for the first time. Although the project has now closed and the website isn't being updated, there are many links to resources and information you can share with a disabled person to help remove those barriers. There are three sections.

JISC TechDis

JISC works with a range of partners to remove barriers to learning often faced by people with a disability. They provide advice to teachers, senior managers and policy makers in educational establishments and learning providers on technology for increasing inclusion and accessibility. The Accessibility Essentials pages list resources, guides, case studies and many links to other websites. They have developed free English accent ‘voices’ that can be downloaded and used to read documents to you.

RNIB - Operating System Accessibility

Links to information about the accessibility features of Windows, Mac OS and Linux

Anything missing? Tell us in the comments if you've seen or used a resource we should include here.

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