Accessibility in Windows 95: Overview

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This appendix describes the new features in Windows 95 that support enhanced accessibility. This appendix also provides information about other Microsoft products and services that make Windows 95 more accessible for people with disabilities.

For information about creating custom setup support to accommodate accessibility needs, see Chapter 5, "Custom, Automated, and Push Installations."

Microsoft is committed to making computers easier to use for everyone, including individuals with disabilities. In recent years Microsoft has established close relationships with users who have disabilities, organizations representing disabled individuals, workers in the rehabilitation field, and software developers who create products for this market. Based on their combined input, Microsoft has defined specific design goals for Windows 95:

  • Integrate and improve the features from the accessibility product Access Pack for Microsoft Windows that compensate for difficulties some individuals have using the keyboard or the mouse

  • Make the visual user interface easier to customize for people with limited vision

  • Provide additional visual feedback for users who are deaf or hard-of-hearing

  • Provide new API and "hooks" for ISVs developing accessibility aids, including those that allow blind individuals to use Windows

  • Make information on accessibility solutions more widely available and increase public awareness of these issues

Windows 95 offers several enhancements designed to meet these accessibility goals. The primary improvements in accessibility for Windows 95 are:

  • Scalable user interface elements

  • Features that compensate for difficulties in using the keyboard

  • Keyboard emulation of the mouse

  • Support for alternative input devices that emulate the keyboard and mouse

  • Visual cues to tell the user when the application is making sounds

  • Notification to other applications when the user has limited vision, needs additional keyboard support due to difficulty using a mouse, or wants visual captions to be displayed for speech or other sounds

  • Notification to other applications when they should modify behavior to be compatible with accessibility software utilities running in the system

  • Optimized keyboard layouts for users who type with a single hand, a single finger, or a mouthstick

  • Audible prompts during Setup for users who have low vision

  • Color schemes that are optimized for users with low vision

  • Documentation that includes accessibility information

On This Page

To install accessibility features under Windows 95
Windows 95 Accessibility Features
Microsoft Services for People Who Are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing
Keyboard Layouts for Single-Handed Users
Microsoft Documentation on Audiocassettes and Floppy Disks
Accessibility-Enhancing Utilities from Other Vendors
Getting More Information on Accessibility

To install accessibility features under Windows 95

  1. In the Add/Remove Programs option in Control Panel, click the Windows Setup tab.

  2. In the list of components, click Accessibility Options and then click OK.

Windows 95 Accessibility Features

Windows 95 accessibility features fall into the following categories:

  • General accessibility features

  • Features for users with limited vision

  • Features for users who have difficulty using a keyboard or mouse

  • Features for users who are deaf or hard-of-hearing

  • Features supporting the use of alternate input devices

  • Features supporting the development of accessible software

General Accessibility Enhancement Features

This section describes general enhancements to the operating system that support accessibility. These include:

  • Online Help

  • Control Panel support for accessibility features

  • Emergency hot keys

  • Accessibility time-out

  • Accessibility status indicator

Online Help

An Accessibility section in the Windows 95 Help contents and index provides a quick reference and pointer to topics that can help adjust the behavior of the system for people with disabilities.

Control Panel Support for Accessibility Features

The Accessibility Options icon in Control Panel controls most of the accessibility features in Windows 95. With Accessibilities properties, users can turn the accessibility features on or off, customizing keyboard, sound, display, and mouse operation for their own particular needs.

Accessibility properties dialog box in Control Panel


Emergency Hot Keys

The emergency hot keys provide an alternate method of activating accessibility features, for persons who could not use the computer without first having accessibility features in effect. Also known as shortcuts, the emergency hot keys allow the user to temporarily turn on the specific needed feature. Then, after a feature has been turned on, the user can navigate to Control Panel and adjust the feature to the user's own preferences, or turn the feature on permanently. The same hot key temporarily turns off the feature, if it gets in the way, or if another person wants to use the computer without this feature.

Hot keys are designed to be unique key combinations that should not conflict with keys used by applications. If such a conflict does arise, the hot keys can be disabled, and the user can still use the feature or not, as needed.

As a precaution against accidental use, pressing an emergency hot key causes special tones to sound (a rising siren tone for on, and a falling siren tone for off), and causes a confirmation dialog box to appear, briefly explaining the feature and how it was activated. If the user pressed the hot key unintentionally, the user can cancel the feature's activation at this time. The confirming dialog box also provides a quick path to more detailed help and to the Control Panel settings for the hot-key feature, in case the user wants to disable the hot key permanently.

The following table shows how the hot keys work.

To turn on

Press the following keys


SHIFT five times


Left ALT + left SHIFT + NUM LOCK

FilterKeys, with default settings active

Right SHIFT and hold it down for eight seconds

FilterKeys with SlowKeys and RepeatKeys set to the most conservative values

Right SHIFT and hold it down for 12 sections

FilterKeys with BounceKeys and RepeatKeys set to the most conservative values

Right SHIFT and hold it down for 16 seconds


NUM LOCK and hold it down for five seconds

High-contrast Key

Left alt, left shift, and print screen keys simultaneously

Accessibility Time-out

The time-out feature of the Accessibilities properties dialog box turns off accessibility functionality after the computer has been idle for a certain period of time. It returns the operating system to its default configuration. This feature is useful on computers shared by multiple users.

Accessibility Status Indicator

While an accessibility feature is in use, Windows 95 can display an optional visual indicator that tells the user which accessibility features are turned on. This helps users unfamiliar with the accessibility features to identify which ones are in effect. The indicator also provides feedback on the keys and mouse buttons currently being "held down" by the StickyKeys and MouseKeys features. The status indicator can appear on the system taskbar, or as a free-floating window; users can choose the displayed size from a range of different sizes.

Accessibility Status Indicator Window


In the preceding illustration, the three rectangles represent the left SHIFT, CTRL, and ALT keys. As each modifier key is held down by the StickyKeys feature, the corresponding rectangle appears filled.

The mouse in the Accessibility status indicator window may show either the left or the right button shaded, depending on which is selected. Pressing 5, +, or INS is equivalent to using that button. If you have selected working with both buttons (equivalent to using the middle button on a three-button mouse), both buttons are shaded. If you lock down one or more mouse buttons using the INS key, the status indicator shows those buttons as being filled, rather than shaded. (To release them, press DEL.)

The stop watch indicates that the keyboard response is being affected by SlowKeys, BounceKeys, or RepeatKeys features.

Features for Users with Low Vision

This section describes the specific accessibility features that Windows 95 provides to users with limited vision, including:

  • Scalable user interface elements

  • Customizable display for mouse pointer

  • High-contrast mode

Scalable User Interface Elements

Users who have limited vision or who suffer eyestrain during normal use of a video display can now adjust the sizes of window titles, scroll bars, borders, menu text, and other standard screen elements. These sizes are completely customizable using Appearance properties in the Display option of Control Panel. Users can also choose between two sizes for the built-in system font.

Customizable Display for Mouse Pointer

Users who have difficulty seeing or following the mouse pointer can now set the following characteristics, to improve visibility of the mouse pointer:

  • Pointer size

  • Pointer color

  • Speed of the pointer

  • Visible trails of pointer movement

  • Animation of the pointer

Customizable mouse pointer display schemes are loaded automatically when you install Windows 95 from the compact disc, using Typical setup. If another setup type is used, install the schemes after Setup is run, using the Add/Remove Programs icon in Control Panel. After installation, the user can select, through the Mouse option in Control Panel, a small, medium, or large mouse pointer scheme on a monochrome display.

In addition, with the Windows 95 compact disc, the user can install color schemes and select from red, gray, yellow, green, or violet 16-color schemes for the mouse pointer. Settings for pointer speed and for showing pointer trails (of user-specified lengths) are also available.

Note: Not all displays support mouse pointer color schemes.

Windows 95 features an animated hourglass pointer for better viewing.

High-Contrast Color Schemes

Windows 95 color schemes allow users to choose from several well designed sets of screen-color options, designed both to match users' individual tastes and to meet their visual needs. The new color schemes in Windows 95 include high-contrast colors, such as white text on a black background, or black text on a white background. These high-contrast color schemes optimize the visibility of screen objects, making it easier for users with visual impairments.

High-Contrast Mode

Many users with low vision require a high degree of contrast between foreground and background objects, in order to distinguish the objects. For example, some users may not be able to easily read black text on a gray background, or text drawn over a picture. By setting a global flag, users can now instruct Windows 95 and applications to display information with a high degree of contrast. Activating high-contrast mode automatically selects the user's preferred color scheme.

Users can activate high-contrast mode using Accessibility Options in Control Panel, or using an emergency hot key sequence (pressing left alt, left shift, and print screen keys simultaneously).

Features for Making Keyboard and Mouse Input Easier

This section describes accessibility features that assist users who may have difficulty using the keyboard or the mouse.

Notice that even without installing accessibility features you can use the TAB key in dialog boxes to move the focus (that is, the outline that indicates where you are currently working in the dialog box), and use the arrow keys to select items in a list. In property sheets that have multiple tabs, you can press CTRL+TAB to select each property sheet in order from left to right. Or press the TAB key until the focus is in the tab for the current property sheet, and then press an arrow key to select the next sheet.


Many software programs require the user to press two or three keys at one time. For people who type with a single finger or a mouthstick, that isn't possible. StickyKeys allows users to press one key at a time and instructs Windows to respond as if they had been pressed simultaneously.

When StickyKeys is on, pressing any modifier key (that is, ctrl, alt, or shift) latches that key down until the user releases the mouse button or presses a key that is not a modifier key. Pressing a modifier key twice in a row locks the key down until it is tapped a third time.

Users can adjust StickyKeys functionality in Control Panel, or turn the feature on or off using an emergency hot key (pressing the SHIFT key five consecutive times).


The sensitivity of the keyboard can be a significant problem for some individuals, for example, if they often press keys accidentally because of a tremor, or because they cannot remove their fingers from keys quickly. Windows 95 includes a series of features designed to work either individually or in combination to compensate for problems in keyboard usage. These features are called SlowKeys, RepeatKeys, and BounceKeys.

SlowKeys instructs Windows 95 to disregard keystrokes that are not held down for a minimum period of time. This allows a user to brush against keys without any effect, and when the user gets a finger on the proper key, the user can hold the key down until the character appears on the screen.

RepeatKeys lets users adjust the repeat rate or disable the key-repeat function on their keyboards. Most keyboards allow users to repeat a key just by holding it down. Although this feature can be convenient for some users, it poses a problem for individuals who can't lift their fingers off the keyboard quickly.

BounceKeys is useful for persons with tremors whose fingers tend to bounce on the keys when pressed or released. When BounceKeys is turned on, this feature instructs your computer to ignore unintended keystrokes.

Users can adjust FilterKeys functionality using the Accessibility Options icon in Control Panel, or turn on or off the specific FilterKeys feature using an emergency hot key. Holding down the right SHIFT key for eight seconds causes a single sound to play and activates this group of features with the user's default settings. If those settings are not appropriate, holding down the key for 12 seconds causes two quick beeps to sound, and turns on the BounceKeys and RepeatKeys features, with their most conservative settings. Holding down the key for 16 seconds causes three quick beeps to sound, and turns on the SlowKeys and RepeatKeys features with their most conservative settings.


This feature lets individuals control the mouse pointer using the keyboard. Although Windows 95 is designed to allow the user to perform all actions without a mouse, some applications may still require one, and a mouse may be more convenient for some tasks. MouseKeys is also useful for graphic artists and others who need to position the pointer with great accuracy. Users do not need to have a mouse to use this feature.

When MouseKeys is on, use the following keys to navigate the pointer on the screen:

  • Press one of the numbered keys (also called the arrow keys) on the numeric keypad — except 5 — to move the pointer in the direction indicated in the following figure.

    Keys on the numeric keypad that control the mouse pointer


  • Use the 5 key for a single mouse-button click and the PLUS SIGN (+) key for a double-click.

  • To drag and release an object, place the pointer on the object and press ins to begin dragging. Move the object to its new location and press del to release it.

  • Select the left, right, or both mouse buttons for clicking by pressing the forward slash (/) key, the minus sign (-) key, or the asterisk (*) key, respectively.

  • Hold down the ctrl key while using the arrow keys (numeric keys, except for 5) to cause the pointer to "jump" across large sections of the screen.

  • Hold down the shift key while using the arrow keys to move the mouse a single pixel at a time for greater accuracy.

Users can adjust MouseKeys in Control Panel, or turn the feature on or off using an emergency hot key (pressing the left alt, left shift, and num lock keys simultaneously).

Note: If the Mousekeys feature is on, but NUMLOCK is off the MouseKeys icon in the taskbar shows that Mousekeys is disabled.


ToggleKeys provides audio cues — high and low beeps — to tell the user whether a toggle key is active or inactive. It applies to the caps lock, num lock, and scroll lock keys.

Users can adjust ToggleKeys in Control Panel, or turn the feature on or off using an emergency hot key (holding down the num lock key for eight seconds).

Features for Users Who Are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing

ShowSounds and SoundSentry provide visible feedback in place of audible signals or speech, to users who have hearing disabilities or who work in extremely noisy conditions.


This is a global flag that instructs applications to provide visible feedback—in effect asking the applications to be "closed-captioned."


SoundSentry tells Windows to send a visual cue, such as a blinking title bar or a screen flash whenever there is a system beep. This allows users to see the message that may not have been heard.


You can use the WinChat utility to have an electronic conversation with up to seven other people who are using Windows 95. Unlike an electronic mail message that you compose, save, and then send to another person, a WinChat message is visible to others as you type it. The WinChat utility is provided in the OTHER\CHAT directory on the Windows 95 compact disc.

This utility is appropriate to install on all computers running Windows 95 in an environment that includes users who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. WinChat is the best alternative form of communication when an interpreter or a text telephone (called a "TT" or "TDD") is not available.

If Windows 95 is installed on a computer that did not previously have Windows for Workgroups installed, you can install WinChat from the Windows 95 compact disc.

To install WinChat on a computer running Windows 95

  1. In the Add/Remove Programs option in Control Panel, click the Windows Setup tab.

  2. Click the Have Disk button. In the Install From Disk dialog box, supply the path to the OTHER\CHAT directory on the Windows 95 compact disc.

  3. In the Have Disk box, click the WinChat entry in the Components list, and click the Install button.

If Windows 95 users previously ran WinChat under Windows for Workgroups, and upgraded to Windows 95 in their previous Windows directory, WinChat is still available on their computers.

To make a call or add a person to a call

  1. On the toolbar in WinChat, click the Dial button. Or choose Dial in the Conversation menu.

  2. In the Select Computer dialog box, type the computer name of the person you want to chat with, and then choose the OK button.

    The message in the status bar informs you if the person answers.

You can type your message in the WinChat window before calling someone. The top window displays what you type. The bottom window displays what the other person is typing. Each time you add a person to your conversation, a new window opens. If there are six people in a conversation, there are six windows open.

Only the person who initiates the call can add another person to the conversation or end the conversation.

When a person is added, that person can view the typed conversation that has already taken place. The names of the people in the conversation appear in the title bar and the status bar.

To move between the windows, click the window you're moving to, or press F6. When you finish your conversation, hang up.

When someone calls you, you answer the call to begin your conversation. If WinChat is running, a sound is emitted, and a message appears in the status bar. If WinChat is not running, it starts as an icon on your desktop.

To answer a call

  • If the WinChat window is open, click the Answer button on the toolbar. Or choose Answer from the Conversation menu.

    If WinChat is running as an icon, double-click the icon, or select it and then press ENTER.

After you answer the call, you can start typing your message.

When you finish your conversation, hang up to disconnect from other participants' computers.

To hang up

  • On the toolbar, click the Hang Up button. Or choose Hang Up in the Conversation menu. Or quit WinChat; it will hang up for you.

You can choose to have your computer ignore incoming calls unless WinChat is running.

To prevent incoming calls

  1. From the Options menu, choose Preferences.

  2. Clear the Autostart Chat When Called check box, and then click OK.

Use the commands on the Options menu to control preferences for window styles, background color, and fonts, and to control the display of the tool bar and status bar. You can also use the Options menu to control whether WinChat rings when there is a call.

To turn the sound on or off

  • From the Options menu in WinChat, choose Sound.

    A check mark next to the Sound command indicates that sound is on.

If you have a sound card, you can change the sound of the incoming or outgoing ring by using the Sound option in Control Panel.

Features Supporting Alternative Input Devices

This section describes Windows 95 support for the use of alternative input devices.


This feature, in conjunction with a communications aid interface device, allows the user to control the computer using an alternative input device. Such a device needs only to send coded command strings through the computer's serial port to specify keystrokes and mouse events, which are then treated as if they were normal keyboard or mouse input.

Support for Multiple Pointing Devices

The new Plug and Play architecture in Windows 95 inherently supports multiple pointing devices working in combination. This allows seamless addition of alternative pointing devices, such as head-pointers or eye-gaze systems without the need to replace or disable the normal mouse.

Features for Software Developers

This section describes how the design of Windows 95 makes it easier for software developers to make their products accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Accessibility Guidelines for Software Developers

Windows 95 contains many built-in accessibility features. To make a computer running Windows 95 truly accessible, application developers must provide access to their applications' features, taking care to avoid incompatibilities with accessibility aids.

As part of the Win32 Software Development Kit for Windows 95 and Windows NT and The Windows Interface Guidelines for Software Design, Microsoft has provided developers with documentation which not only outlines these important concepts, but provides technical and design tips to help ISVs produce more accessible applications. Most of these tips will mean very little additional work to the designer, as long as the application designer is aware of the issues and incorporates accessibility into the application design at an early stage. By providing this information to application developers, Microsoft hopes to increase the general level of accessibility of all software running on the Windows platform.

Methods for Simulating Input

Windows 95 now allows developers of voice-input systems and other alternative input systems to easily simulate keyboard and mouse input using fully documented and supported procedures.

New Common Controls

Many accessibility aids have difficulty working with applications that implement nonstandard controls. Windows 95 introduces a whole new set of controls available for mainstream software developers, and these standardized implementations are designed to cooperate with accessibility aids.

Using Accessibility Features in Windows 95


To see how the accessibility features in Windows 95 make it easy to customize the appearance and behavior of the computer, try them out, using the following procedures.

To perform mouse actions from the keyboard

  • Press the left alt, the left shift, and the num lock keys simultaneously. You'll be able to drag and drop, and click or double-click both the primary and secondary mouse buttons by using your keyboard's numeric keypad.

    For more information, see "MouseKeys" earlier in this appendix.

To perform an ALT+TAB action with a pencil

  1. Press a shift key five consecutive times to start StickyKeys. When StickyKeys is activated, press the alt key and see what happens. Press tab and you'll have just typed two keys at once with a single finger.

  2. Press the alt key twice, then press tab a few times to see the alt+ tab window and cycle through all the tasks you have running. When you're satisfied, press alt one more time to release it.

  3. When you're ready to move on, turn off this feature by pressing two keys at the same time. Don't forget to watch the status indicator on the system taskbar.

    This feature is helpful to users who type with only one finger or who use a mouthstick.

To get accessibility support for MS-DOS–based applications

  • Start an MS-DOS – based application and try StickyKeys or MouseKeys. These features are available whenever you need them, regardless of what you may be doing, even when you're running MS-DOS–based applications.

To improve on-screen readability

  • Press left alt + left shift + print screen and try to find a screen appearance that's better suited to your needs.

    This feature is useful for individuals who can't read black text on a gray background because all the lines blur together.

Microsoft Services for People Who Are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing

Through a text telephone (TT/TDD) service, Microsoft provides people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing with complete access to Microsoft product and customer services.

You can contact Microsoft Sales and Service on a text telephone by dialing (800) 892-5234 between 6:30 A.M. and 5:30 P.M. Pacific time. For technical assistance you can contact Microsoft Product Support Services on a text telephone at (206) 635-4948 between 6:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M. Pacific time. Microsoft support services are subject to Microsoft prices, terms, and conditions in place at the time the service is used.

Keyboard Layouts for Single-Handed Users

Microsoft distributes Dvorak keyboard layouts that make the most frequently typed characters on a keyboard more accessible to people who have difficulty using the standard "QWERTY" layout. There are three Dvorak layouts: one for two-handed users, one for people who type with the left hand only, and one for people who type with the right hand only. The left-handed or right-handed keyboard layouts can also be used by people who type with a single finger or a wand. You do not need to purchase any special equipment in order to use these features.

Microsoft Windows already supports the two-handed Dvorak layout, which can be helpful in preventing or relieving some repetitive-motion injuries associated with typing. To get this layout, choose the International icon from Control Panel. The two layouts for people who type with one hand are distributed as Microsoft Application Note GA0650. It is also contained in file GA0650.ZIP on most network services or GA0650.EXE at

Microsoft Documentation on Audiocassettes and Floppy Disks

People who have difficulty reading or handling printed documentation can obtain most Microsoft publications from Recording for the Blind, Inc. Recording for the Blind distributes these documents to registered members of their distribution service either on audiocassettes or on floppy disks. The Recording for the Blind collection contains more than 80,000 titles, including Microsoft product documentation and books from Microsoft Press. You can contact Recording for the Blind at the following address or phone numbers:

Recording for the Blind, Inc.
20 Roszel Road
Princeton, NJ 08540

Phone :
Phone outside the U.S.:

(800) 221-4792
(609) 452-0606
(609) 987-8116

Windows 95 documentation is available online in the CD-ROM version of Windows 95. This is also available from Recording for the Blind, Inc.

Accessibility-Enhancing Utilities from Other Vendors

A wide variety of hardware and software products designed to help people with disabilities use personal computers is currently available from other vendors. Among the different types of products available for the MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows, and Microsoft Windows NT operating systems are:

  • Programs that enlarge or alter the color of information on the screen for people with visual impairments

  • Programs that describe information on the screen in braille or in synthesized speech for people who are blind or have difficulty reading

  • Hardware and software utilities that modify the behavior of the mouse and keyboard

  • Programs that enable users to "type" using a mouse or their voice

  • Word or phrase prediction software that allows one to type more quickly and with fewer keystrokes

  • Alternate input devices, such as single switch or puff-and-sip devices, for those who cannot use a mouse or a keyboard

For more information on these types of products, see the following section.

Getting More Information on Accessibility

For more information on Microsoft products and services for people with disabilities, contact Microsoft Sales Information Center at the following address:

Microsoft Sales Information Center
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6393

Voice telephone:
Text telephone:

(800) 426-9400
(800) 892-5234
(206) 635-6100

The Trace R&D Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison produces a book and a compact disc that describe products that help people with disabilities use computers. The Trace Resource Book provides descriptions and photographs of about 2,000 products. The compact disc, titled CO-NET CD, provides a database of more than 18,000 products and other information for people with disabilities. It is issued twice a year.

You can contact the Trace R&D Center at the following address or telephone numbers:

Trace R&D Center
S-151 Waisman Center
1500 Highland Avenue
Madison, WI 53705-2280

Voice telephone:
Text telephone:

(608) 263-2309
(608) 263-5408
(608) 262-8848

For general information and recommendations on how computers can help specific people, consult a trained evaluator who can best match your needs with the available solutions. An assistive technology program in your area will provide referrals to programs and services that are available to you. To locate the assistive technology program nearest you, contact:

National Information System Center for Developmental Disabilities

Voice/text telephone inside the U.S.:

(803) 777-4434

Benson Building

Voice/text telephone outside the U.S.:

(803) 777-6222

University of South Carolina


(803) 777-6058

Columbia, SC 29208