With commercial software, you purchase the program before you install it. Unfortunately, after trying it, you may find it’s not what you anticipated and are unable to return it. Freeware and shareware are different. This category of software is free to use, distribute and try, though some programs may request a donation to continue their work. They are normally not as robust as commercial software, but they may provide a variety of functions beneficial to persons with disabilities.
Software for Visual Needs:
APHont, designed for low vision, aims to enhance reading speed, comprehension and comfort for large print readers. It features more evenly-spaced letters, higher cross bars, wider letters, heavier letters, larger opening, and larger punctuation. After confirming that the font will be used for a person with a visual impairment, you can download from www.aph.org/products/aphont.html
EzMagnifier magnifies a portion of the computer screen. It allows you to choose the zooming factor and you can resize the magnified portion to suit your needs. You can capture an image of the magnified area and the program saves it in a program folder; if you save multiple captures, the program will save them sequentially. www.ancientsoft.com/ezmagnifier.htm
Zoom is a screen enlargement utility. It displays a floating window that shows an enlarged view of the area around the cursor. Http://www3.sympatico.ca/paulscott/zoom.htm
Another Lens displays a magnified view of the area of the mouse cursor. The window contents can be locked and saved to a file or copied to the clipboard for taking screenshots. There are additional options, like crosshairs, resizing the window and hiding the caption bar and/or main menu.
Persons with visual impairments and/or reading issues will find several options to have the computer read to them. These are not as easy to utilize as screen reading or voice output programs because they require the user to copy information into the freeware program to be read. The following have the ability to change the voices, increase or decrease the speed of reading, alter the pitch and simplicity of use.
Read Please and Read Words – www.readplease.com/english/downloads/#rw
Natural Voice Text-to-Speech Reader – www.naturalreaders.com/
Ultra Hal Text-to-Speech Reader – http://downloads-zdnet.com.com/Ultra-Hal-Text-to-Speech-Reader/3000-7239_2-10329180.html?tag=lst-0-2
Freeware for Physical Enhancements:
PhraseExpress manages frequently-used text phrases and pastes them into any Windows application in a snap. It is ideal for letter templates, signatures, addresses, internet chat phrases, and logging in to web accounts. The phrases are clearly laid out in a taskbar icon, and new phrases can be easily added via the Windows clipboard with a single mouse click. www.phraseexpress.com
RemoteKeys replaces complicated keystroke combinations with simple mouse clicks, so you can easily send commands and text modules to any application. It offers 10 user profiles for each of the 250 buttons, and these can be assigned by hand or macro recorder. Send text modules into letters, words into HTML forms and password requesters, and more. www.freewarehits.de/
Point-and-Click is a program for individuals who have problems clicking the mouse. By dwelling over areas, the mouse is able to click, double-click, right-click and drag. No buttons are required to operate a mouse. www.polital.com/pnc/
Click and Type Virtual Keyboard is for individuals who are unable to operate a standard keyboard. An on-screen keyboard appears on the screen and by using head pointing or a mouse input device, the operator is able to make selections to control the computer. www.lakefolks.org/cnt/
A second choice of a free on-screen keyboard is Rapid Keys – http://rapidkeys.netfirms.com/en/index.htm
If you are Macintosh user, there is one simple way of finding a multitude of freeware and shareware software that will work for you. Mac Shareware for People with Disabilities is a website dedicated to providing solutions for computer access. It is designed for different disabilities such as vision, physical, cognitive, and hearing. www.specialink.com/mac.htm
Since the release of Windows 98, the control panel on the PC platform provides Accessibility Options, which provides a variety of options for customizing accessibility settings. For example, key repeat can be turned off or slowed for individuals to stop accidental keystrokes. Other options allow for a communication device to be connected to a computer through serial keys. Windows XP includes wizards for customizing settings for visual and hearing issues, and it has a free on-screen keyboard, magnifier, and voice recognition program.
The Macintosh offers similar customization for the keyboard, mouse, and visual display options. Access these options through the control panel, located by clicking the Apple icon on top of the screen in Mac OS9. In Mac OSX, use “Universal Access” in the systems preferences pane.
In all aspects, the number of adaptations available is expanding quickly. The cost of commercial software is decreasing in price while increasing in capabilities and features. Freeware and shareware may be a good starting point for simple accommodations, but you may need to investigate other software choices. Many manufacturers provide a 30-day trial download to allow for the individual to evaluate the benefits of using their products.
There are many downloads worth investigating for purposes not discussed above, such as software programs for leisure and computer maintenance. If your computer is acting up, chances are there is a freeware or shareware for you. As a final note, always make sure downloads are free of viruses and spyware. There are a variety of programs, such as Norton AntiVirus, that will scan the software before downloading.