By Cathy Gettel

For many computer users, the mouse is a critical input device. However, I’ll admit, I’m old enough to remember pre-Windows computers. So, I can tell you, it’s possible to use even a Windows-based PC without a mouse. Learning to use a computer (DOS or early Windows) in the 1980s was a keyboard-based task. Small, ruler-shaped flip charts were Velcroed to the top of our keyboards to remind us of a series of Function key commands. These keyboard commands enabled us to increase speed when formatting documents in WordPerfect or creating spreadsheets in Quattro Pro.

With the advent of the mouse, the world of computers became a point-and-click endeavor. Working as a network administrator in the late 80s, I taught more than one person to use the mouse by encouraging them to play Solitaire – at work! Now, all these years later, my job is to take that mouse away and I can do that by introducing people who are visually impaired to Ai Squared’s newest product, ZoomText Fusion. Image of ZoomText Fusion Product Box

The mouse works well when our eyes can interpret what is on screen. The keyboard works well when we use our ears, alone or in conjunction with our eyes, to understand what is on the computer screen. ZoomText Fusion is all about helping someone with a visual impairment make the transition from eyes and mouse to ears and keyboard.

Study and intuition have informed us this is not an easy shift. Our product designers worked hard with our software engineers to create a product that not only works after the switch but helps you make it. Two of the features built into ZoomText Fusion, Learning Center and Tutor Mode, are with you the whole way.

The Learning Center is a self-paced study guide that teaches users who to interact with the computer in a different way from what they are used to. It reinforces that it is possible and preferable to put down the mouse and use keyboard shortcuts when working on your computer. There are over 50 short lessons covering topics from Getting Started with Learning Center to Windows 10 and each one reinforces keyboard commands. Each lesson is available in three formats, video, text and audio, so no matter what your best learning method is, we’ve got you covered.

Viewing videos is a great way to discover the possibilities, but watching a video is probably not enough to implant the many Windows shortcuts in your brain. Therefore, we developed Tutor Mode. When you land on a Windows control such as an icon, a button or a menu, and make no action for a period of time, Tutor Mode tells you what keyboard commands can be used to interact with that particular control. It’s like having a virtual trainer standing over your shoulder as you work, reminding you what hotkeys are available to take the next step.

Internet browsers are used for all sorts of tasks these days. Do you want to know the weather forecast? The train schedule? Your child’s homework assignment? Check the web! In our ZoomText Fusion planning sessions, we knew we needed to do a fabulous job of making the Internet accessible via either eyes and mouse or ears and keyboard.

When someone who is fully sighted goes to a new webpage, they probably scan the page with their eyes. They may use the mouse to move the scroll bar if the page runs past the bottom of the screen. Once they see the page layout, and read some of the headings and links, they can go to work.

How does that translate for a low vision user? Well, with ZoomText Fusion, the beginning of the process may be much the same, using ZoomText magnification and the mouse to move scroll bars and the view port, a person can scan the page. Depending upon the level of magnification, this scanning process may be a daunting task. The Page Navigation tool in ZoomText Fusion, takes all Windows components of a given web page and displays them in a list. By default, the list shows all Links on the page, but it’s easy for the user to switch the display, enabling them to see Headings, Landmarks, Edit boxes, etc. Essentially, we shrink the web page such that pertinent information fits into a manageable dialog box.

For someone who uses medium magnification, the combination of the PageNav dialog box and the ability of ZoomText Fusion to read the elements listed there, gives them a great overview of the page and provides an excellent way to navigate the web site. But what about someone how uses high magnification or someone with no sight? For that class of user, we created Browse Mode.

Screen reader users know that single key navigation on a web site is key to ease of use and productivity. Our Browse Mode gives ZoomText Fusion users that facility! To experience a new page, a user in this category might use semicolon to hear what Landmarks are on the page. Each successive press of the semicolon key takes the user to the next Landmark. Upon hearing a Landmark described as “main landmark” the user might switch to H for Heading or L for Link navigation. The intention being to get a feel for what the owner of the web site believes is important on their site.

No matter how you do it, exploring a new web site is the first step and with ZoomText Fusion you have many tools to help you explore every site you visit.

For more information on ZoomText Fusion, go to www.zoomtext.com/fusion today. Explore this list of features and watch a short video of ZoomText Fusion in action. On the same page, you can download a free 60-day trial of this fantastic new product.

If you or someone you know has declining vision and would like to investigate the move from mouse and eyes to keyboard and ears, install ZoomText Fusion. See just how easy and comfortable the transition from ZoomText Magnifier/Reader to ZoomText Fusion can be.