Windows 7 a dud for sight-impaired people

Dr Scott Hollier of Media Access Australia tipped off APC to the problem.

“We were very excited when it was initially revealed that Windows 7 would feature a major update to its accessibility features the first since the release of Windows 2000” Dr Hollier writes.

“The key updates include a full-screen Magnifier and predictive text for the on-screen keyboard.  Both of these products have major potential as in the past people have had to spend thousands of dollars on assistive technology software to achieve the same task.

“However after testing the beta and following up on several enquiries we’ve discovered that major flaw in the new Magnifier feature. Although the Magnifier does indeed support full screen by pressing the Windows and ‘+’ key this feature does not work when a high contrast colour scheme is used.  Due to the new feature being Aero-dependent changing into the ‘classic’ high contrast scheme such as High Contrast Black dumps the user back into the old Magnifier program.

“Given that a vast majority of people that need the full screen magnifier will also need a high contrast colour scheme it is a major issue for people with disabilities who will now need to spend a lot of money on assistive technology products despite the fact that all the tools will be in Windows 7 to effectively support them.

“I’ve tried to contact Microsoft for official comment but haven’t received a response.  The issue could be easily resolved by creating an Aero-compatible set of high contrast colour schemes instead of carrying over the ones which were originally included in Windows 95” he concluded.

His original article on the issue can be seen here. He encourages people who have downloaded the Windows 7 public beta to use the “send feedback” feature to submit a request that Microsoft make it possible for the magnifier to work with the high constrast scheme.

Apple Mac OS X has a magnifier feature that does work with the OS’ inbuilt high contrast colour scheme.