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Computing is an area which has changed dramatically in the last twenty years. No longer are the main users people with knowledge of programming. However there are indications that too many systems are still designed for users with a background in computing; for instance, with Windows 95/98 one has to click on 'start' when one wants to turn off the computer.

Computer hardware is cheaper and faster, but connecting new peripherals can still be problematic for non-technical users. Frequently controls are difficult to use by people with poor manual dexterity. However, at long last, system software developers are including facilities to help people with disabilities. Unfortunately many of the potential users are unaware that these facilities exist.

In the last twenty years, the most important change for many blind people has been the advent of the personal computer. With text-based operating systems, such as DOS, a blind person could access information with similar ease to a sighted person. The output from the computer could be in synthetic speech, a transitory Braille display or large characters on the monitor.

Many visually impaired people use their personal computers just for word processing. This gives them the ability to check what they have typed and to correct any errors.

However the introduction of the graphical user interface, of which Windows is the best known example, brought a range of new problems. Early versions of Windows were partly inaccessible and required the blind person to have an understanding of the structure of the operating system. More recent versions of Windows have been more accessible because Microsoft has built in more accessibility features, but even so it is still not as easy as DOS for a blind person to use. Some blind people only use DOS, but most new software is not available in a DOS version.

Computer Hardware
Computer Software
Web Accessibility

Relevant standards

  • ISO 9241 Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals.
  • ISO/IEC 9995 Information technology: Keyboard layouts for text and office systems.

Further information