Accessibility and Assistive Technology

Computer Accesibility

What is computer accesibility?

This term refers to the accessibility of a computer system to all people, regardless of disability or severity of impairment. It is largely a software concern; when software, hardware, or a combination of both, is used to enable use of a computer by a person with a disability or impairment, this is known as Assistive Technology.

For individuals with mild to medium vision impairment, it is helpful to use large fonts, high DPI displays, high-contrast themes and icons supplemented with auditory feedback and screen magnifying software.

In the case of severe vision impairment such as blindness, screen reader software that provides feedback via text-to-speech or a refreshable braille display is a necessary accommodation for interaction with a computer.

Assistive Technology Software

Vinux is a Linux distribution which has been specially designed for blind and partially sighted users.
It is a remastered version of the Ubuntu distribution and provides users with two screen-readers, two full-screen magnifiers, global font-size and colour changing facilities. The system also supports USB braille displays.
It can be run from a Live CD without making any changes to your hard drive

Requirements for Vinux main Edition:

  • 1 GHz x86 processor.
  • 1 Gb of system memory (RAM).
  • 15 GB of hard-drive space (although this can be split onto 2 drives, a 5Gb / and a 10Gb /home partition fairly easily).
  • Graphics card and monitor capable of 1024 by 768 resolution.
  • Either a Cd/Dvd-drive or a Usb socket (or both).
  • Internet access is helpful though not vital.

Requirements for Vinux (CLI) Installation:

  • 300 MHz x86 processor.
  • 128 MiB of system memory (RAM).
  • 1 GB of disk space.
  • Graphics card and monitor capable of 640×480.
  • CD-ROM drive.

Some other free alternatives:

Orca is a free, open source, flexible, and extensible screen reader for Linux that provides access to graphical desktop environments via user-customizable combinations of speech, braille, and magnification.

There are no specific system requirements, as it is expected to work even with very little RAM.

NVDA(NonVisual Desktop Access) is a free, open source, portable screen reader for Microsoft Windows.

NVDA uses eSpeak as its integrated speech synthesizer, and also supports SAPI synthesizers. Output to braille displays is supported too.
It runs on both 32-bit and 64-bit editions of Microsoft Windows XP or later.

It has no additional hardware requirements beyond those of the operating system and requires less than 50 mb of disk space.

Proprietary software alternatives:

Proprietary software is computer software licensed under exclusive legal right of the copyright holder. The licensee is given the right to use the software under certain conditions, while restricted from other uses, such as modification, further distribution, or reverse engineering.

JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is a computer screen reader program for Microsoft Windows that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or a refreshable braille display.

There are two versions of the program,standard and professional. A third version for MS-DOS is free.

Window-eyes is a screen reader for Microsoft Windows, compatible with the following versions: Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

How to speed up a slow Windows computer

Speeding up your slow Windows computer

Why is my computer so slow?

Could be any number of reasons, something really simple like a buggy app, or something serious like an impending hardware failure. Save yourself time in the long run by doing some diagnostics before it gets out of hand.

Hardware problems, Hard Drive Speed, RAM and the Event log

In our experience Windows 7+ needs at least 1GB just to get off the ground, to run MS Office 2003 or newer you will need at the very least another 2GB.

For Graphics intensive apps such as Gimp (Photshop, Gimp, Games etc), in addition to another few GB you need to have a good amount of graphics RAM (1GB+)

Check the Windows Event Log – look out for errors reported therein. If you see errors about “bad blocks” from “harddisk” – then it is likely your hard disk is starting to go and this will slow things down while the computer repeatedly tries to read from un-readble sectors on the hard drive. Backup your data as soon as you can and arrange to have it replaced. For this you need some expertise – or be willing to spend some serious hours of googling. Look at about 1-4 days for the average user computer-user. If you have neither, see “I cant handle this!” below.

You can get a massive boost to performance by replacing your Hard Drive with an SSD. Again, this can take a lot of time, but there are good people about who can help. Check out The Restart Project who host regular events in London. Their wiki has have great links for empowering yourself.

Temporary Files Buildup

For some reason, Windows insists on storing all the cookies and temp files it ever uses, for an indefinite period. Get rid of them! The problem is finding them because Windows also thinks that since you a just a dumb consumer do not want to see them, so the easiest way to do this is to install and run CCleaner (

Don’t remove anything unless you know what your doing, but please have a peek under the hood yourself – START | RUN | $APPDATA

Virus or Malware infection

Note that most malware is not classed as virus, so you will need to use an Anti-Malware product as well as the AV

Check that your Antivirus software is up to date and is not too resource hungry. Software such as Macaffee and Symantec tend to be very resource hungry, so if you have less than 2GB RAM then remove them and install a leaner one such as Bitdefender.

Make sure the “Safe Browsing” options are unchecked – since these submit all your search results to the AV provider for checking before giving them back to you. Apart from the privacy issues, if their server is having a bad day you too will be impacted.

Install an anti-malware software (we recommend MBAM from, update the signatures file and scan your drive, remove all it finds.

This has not helped..

Windows maintains all its information about hardware and programs in the “registry”. After some years of Installing/Uninstalling the registry can become too large and even corrupted. There are some specialist tools to tweak and clean the registry but in our experience they seldom work very well.

At the end of the day the best way to improve performance is to wipe Windows and re-install. This means you will have to back up all your documents, emails etc, wipe your drive and re-install Windows. Be sure to have the original disks and serial number for all the software you have installed because otherwise you will lose all of this.

If your going to the lengths of a re-install then you’ll thank yourself to do it on an SSD.

I can’t handle this!

Check out The Restart Project, based in London but there are regular events all over the world.


My computer won’t switch on!

Diagnose, fix it yourself in 5 minutes

These are the things you can do to troubleshoot this yourself. After each of these steps, press the ON button to test again. Diagnosis is only effective if you do things one at a time.

1. Press EJECT on the CDROM see if any mechanical sounding action results. If it ejects or tries to eject then power is probably OK, but the Operating System has crashed, or else the monitor is off or disconnected.
2. Check there is a light on the monitor / screen. If not then test with a different monitor.
3. Disconnect ANY USB devices (including Keyboard, Monitor, External USB disk, Printer etc)
4. Completely disconnect power plug. Wait 20 seconds. Reconnect.
5. Test another device with the same power cable / wall socket to ensure it is live.

Call your IT support. Make a note of the following findings to help them assist.

1. Do you hear any noises or see lights flashing briefly anywhere on the machine at the moment you plug it in?
2. When you attach an Ethernet cable between the Ethernet Wall Socket (if you have one) and the Ethernet socket on the machine, are there any lights?

If your organisation has no IT support, we may be able to help.

For the confident or the brave

If your willing/able to open the case and get under the hood you can probably get to the root of the problem yourself! Firstly
ensure that the power supply is live as per instructions above (must be some lights or noise when you plug in power). Sometimes a faulty peripheral can stop the machine from starting up so lets try to disconnect them all. Again it’s important, after each step below, to test the ON button again.

1. Open the case – on most modern machines you don’t need tools
2. Disconnect the CDROM
3. Disconnect the Hard Drive
4. (advanced only) Disconnect all the memory modules. Be very careful not to handle with un-gloved fingers the gold/silver strips on the modules. If response to power-on changes then probably you’ve got a faulty one. In this case, place them back in the machine one at a time repeating power-on test each time. When re-installing press firmly and gently, don’t forget to ensure the holding clips are closed properly. When behaviour changes you’ve probably found your faulty SIM. You can get like-replacements from or contact us for a quote.