Computer Use

The Office of Literacy and Essential Skills has defined 9 skills needed for work, learning and everyday living. Computer use is named as one of the skills required that provides the foundation for learning all other skills.  

Students use computers for online researching, completing homework and projects, writing essays and assignments, etc.  Students with disabilities often have difficulties using the computer due to limitations in vision, hearing, mobility, and/or cognition. This section will highlight various high and low technologies that can assist with computer use.

High technology to support computer use

The following list of high technology can assist students who may not be able to use a standard computer setup.

On-screen keyboard

An onscreen (or virtual) keyboard generally appears on the same display used for programs and will remain permanently visible. The keyboard can then be accessed using the computers’ pointer device. This may be by using a standard mouse, or accessing it through the use of alternative mouse device or switches.

Refreshable Braille Displays

Refreshable Braille displays are electronic devices that are used to read text tactually that is typically displayed visually on a computer monitor. They are often use by individuals with visual impairments or those who are deaf-blind.

Screen magnifiers

Screen magnification software is used by individuals with visual impairments to access information on a computers screen. The software enlarges any information on the screen including text, icons and graphics by pre-determined incremental factor, for example, 1.5x magnification, 2 x magnifications, 3 x magnifications, etc.

Screen reader

A Screen Reader, commonly used name for Voice Output Technology, is used by individuals who experience difficulty reading the standard text displayed on screen, for example, individuals who are visually impaired or blind. Screen readers produce synthesized speech output for text displayed on the computer screen, as well as for keystrokes entered on the keyboard.

Voice recognition

Voice recognition software (also known as speech to text software) allows an individual to use their voice instead of typing on a keyboard.

Low technology to support computer use

Alternative keyboards

Often technology is not designed with the full diversity of users in mind and therefore alternative keyboard layouts allow people who experience difficulty accessing conventional keyboard designs to use computers.

Alternative mouse systems

Alternative pointing devices are used to replace the mouse. This may include the use of trackballs, joysticks, trackpads, switches, etc.

Ergonomic equipment

The set up of your computer workstation can directly affect your ability to work at your computer. The following ergonomic equipment can help:

  • Glare filter
  • Monitor arm
  • Wrist rest
  • Ergonomic chair
  • Keyboard tray
  • Foot rests
  • Height adjustable desks

Operating System Accessibility

Your computer may have some built-in accessibility features that may make it easier for you to use. Find out more about your Operating System Accessibility features here.


Switches are a common solution for users with mobility disabilities who need to use computers or other electronic devices, but have difficulty with the physical interface based on its’ design.


Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) is a Canadian organization focused on improving the literacy and essential skills of adult Canadians. OLES provide expertise, project funding, and a wide range of learning tools and other resources.

Key XL – provides you keyboard shortcuts by application and platform