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[Graphic. Three color photos are standing side-by-side. In the first, a young teen-age boy is typing on a computer keyboard and smiling. In the second, a man is sitting in front of a computer reading using his refreshable braille display. In the third, three children are in a computer lab. All three have headphones. One is looking at the screen and one is listening to the output. (The face of the third child is blocked by the head of the second). End of graphic description]

Joanmarie Diggs, M.Ed.

The Carroll Center for the Blind
2002 AER International Conference
20 July 2002

We know….

The world is made up of objects whose function and form dictate how we access and use these objects. Children who are blind or visually impaired need concrete, hands-on experiences so that they can understand the world around them and can independently and safely interact with the objects they encounter.


The Windows Operating System is made up of objects whose function and form dictate how we access and use these objects. As with accessing objects in the environment, people who are sighted have visual information about the form and function of Windows objects and controls. In addition, a mouse user can access all windows controls in the same way: clicking on them. Children who are blind or visually impaired need to understand the form and function of these objects and controls so that they can independently use a computer and successfully interact with new and unexpected objects.

[Graphic. Clip art of a young man sitting in front of a computer and typing.]

Some (but NOT all) Objects and Controls

[Graphic. The caption reads “An Internet Explorer window with two dialog boxes.” This image is a screen shot in grayscale of an Internet Explorer Window. The web page being shown contains a form. On top of this page, but off to the side, are two dialog boxes. The first dialog box is the multi-page Internet Options dialog box. On top of this dialog box, but off to its side, is the Settings dialog box (which is accessed by clicking the Settings button in the Internet Options dialog). Superimposed upon the entire image are text and arrows identifying the following controls: Title bar, Menu bar, Tool bar, Edit combo box, Page tabs, multi-page dialog box, Dialog box, Scroll bar, Radio buttons, Left-Right Slider, Spin box, Buttons, Edit boxes, Graphical links, Form, Checkboxes Start Button, System Tray, Status bar, Task bar. This is the end of the graphic description.]

Note the variety and number of controls present. The user who is blind must be taught about all of these different types of controls: what their form and function are, where they might be found, what keystrokes are necessary to navigate to them, what actions can be performed within them, how to exit them, how to determine what control one is in, etc. Without these skills, the user who is blind becomes the equivalent of a rote traveler who does not truly understand how to use a computer and gets easily lost when the unexpected happens (as it often does on a computer!). Knowing the visual appearance of the controls helps the user who is blind understand the keystrokes for navigation AND enables him/her to receive instruction/technical support from people who are not familiar with the strategies used by someone who is blind. Detailed information about these objects can be found at the end of this packet.

[Graphic. This page serves as a section divider. The title reads “Implementing the Concept-Based Approach.” The rest of the page is taken up by a large clip art image of a teacher and a young boy standing in front of a computer and having a conversation. They are looking at each other and smiling. The teacher is pointing to the student.]

Areas of Instruction: Mainstream Technology

The following areas of instruction are suggested, making adjustments in the depth of coverage and order of presentation based upon each student’s abilities and needs. Assume your students can master all of the following areas in depth — many of them can! The student’s access method (I.e. screen reader with speech, screen reader with braille, screen magnification software, etc.) should be taught in conjunction with the following areas, rather than separately.


  • Keyboarding
  • Word Processing (Microsoft Word)
  • Translating and embossing, if a braille reader (Duxbury)
  • File Management (via the Desktop, Windows Explorer, later within the Open and Save As dialog boxes)
  • Email (Outlook Express)
  • Web (Internet Explorer)
  • Scanning, if appropriate (Kurzweil or OpenBook or an accessible mainstream program such as OmniPage Pro)
  • Configuring Windows to be more accessible

Strongly Recommended:

  • Online Multimedia (Real Player, Windows Media Player)
  • Instant Messaging (AIM)
  • Spreadsheets (Microsoft Excel)
  • Database Applications (Microsoft Access)
  • Presentation Applications (Microsoft PowerPoint)

Areas of Instruction: Assistive Technology

As the student is mastering the ability to use mainstream computer technology, he/she should also be developing a good understanding of the assistive technology that enables him/her to access the computer.

Basic Skills:

  • Launching and quitting the assistive technology
  • Accessing all areas of the screen
  • Accessing all needed controls and information
  • Determining his/her current location
  • Identifying hotkeys for menu items and dialog box controls

Intermediate Skills:

  • Configuring the assistive technology to produce output in the most usable form for him/her. When multiple assistive technology outputs are used (large print, speech, refreshable braille), understanding which output makes the most sense for any given task or situation
  • Distinguishing built-in Windows commands and keyboard shortcuts from assistive technology commands and keyboard shortcuts. (This is essential not just for concept development, but to enable the student to quickly master an unfamiliar screen reader or screen magnification software which he/she might encounter as an adult)
  • For screen reader users who sometimes use refreshable braille from a notetaker, being able to connect, disconnect, and activate the notetaker for this purpose
  • Systematically troubleshooting and resolving basic problems when the assistive technology is not working as expected
  • Accessing the assistive technology product’s help options (context-sensitive help and help files)
  • Locating, downloading, and installing updates to the software

Advanced Skills:

  • For screen reader users, using the assistive technology to control the mouse and access elements that would otherwise be inaccessible
  • Developing strategies for distinguishing between something that is inherently inaccessible and something unfamiliar
  • Locating the technical support phone number, contacting technical support, and solving a problem with their assistance
  • Identifying sources other than teachers and technical support where information and assistance is available (e.g. listservs, computer users groups, magazines/journals)
  • Knowing the companies that make, manufacture, and sell assistive technology products, and be able to locate the contact information for these companies
  • Comparing the features of similar assistive technology products and determining which product best meets his/her needs. Then being able to express his/her findings both verbally and in writing
  • Expressing both verbally and in writing how the assistive technology enables him/her to access a computer
  • Translating the language of a sighted user (who is unfamiliar with assistive technology) providing assistance into keyboard commands. Being able to ask effective questions of the sighted user to gather usable information

Presenting Controls and Concepts in a Logical Manner

It is essential for a child who is blind or visually impaired to understand Windows controls and computer concepts, rather than simply follow rote procedures. The following is one example illustrating how concepts, controls, and skills can be systematically introduced to your students. While quite detailed, it is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all of the concepts and skills that your students need. The exact order and the interspersing of other tasks (e.g. file management, basic email, introductory spreadsheets) will depend on each child’s abilities and needs. And take advantage of the “teachable moments” that present themselves rather than strictly adhering to the order below.

It is assumed that the student has mastered basic keyboarding prior to beginning the tasks below. Note that some of the tasks are specific to children who are blind and may not be necessary for students accessing a computer visually.

  1. Launch MS Word from the Start menu, using arrow keys in menus. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Windows key, Start menu, navigating in menus, using enter to indicate desired choice.
  2. Write a simple document (no editing other than the backspace to immediately correct a mistaken keystroke). Concepts/Controls/Skills: Edit box, word processing, function of backspace.
  3. Read a document in MS Word created and opened by the teacher. Limit reading functions to characters, words, lines. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Navigation within the edit box; access software commands (current line, word, character) and windows commands (previous/next line, word, character).
  4. Save a document, quit MS Word (using the File menu), then re-launch it and open that document. Concepts/Controls/Skills: File menu, dialog box, menu navigation, edit box, files, file names, saving (i.e. file permanence), opening files.
  5. Open an MS Word document whose name is unknown/ forgotten (but in My Documents) by moving to the list view above the file name edit box and locating it using the arrow keys. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Navigation in dialog boxes, list views, using arrows to navigate in a list view, using enter to indicate a desired choice.
  6. Edit an MS Word document (basic, but introduce and compare backspace and delete). Concepts/Controls/Skills: navigation within an edit box; practice reading by line, word, character; picking the most efficient unit by which to move; delete key; backspace versus delete.
  7. Print an MS Word document. Concepts/Controls/Skills: using a printer. For the student who is blind, becoming familiar with the orientation of the paper as it comes out of the printer. NOTE: At this point it is good for braille readers to be introduced to Duxbury. We want our students to generalize concepts and skills as soon as possible, and they now have the concepts necessary to emboss a document they created: using the Start menu to launch an application, opening a file, using the File menu (which they will need to translate and emboss until shortcut keys are introduced), exiting an application (also using the File menu). For students who read large print, it is suggested that they be introduced to changing the font size around this point rather than waiting to present it much later, as is outlined in this document.
  8. Close an existing document without quitting MS Word. Then create a new document using the File menu. Concepts/Controls/Skills: closing files, creating new files, more practice with the File menu.
  9. Read and/or edit a larger MS Word document and looking for information (but without using the Find command). Concepts/Controls/Skills: navigation by paragraphs, sentences, beginning and end of files, beginning and end of lines.
  10. Locate the shortcut keys for menu items (both letters to jump within menus, and control key commands to bypass menus) and use them to be more efficient. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Shortcut keys for menu items, more thinking about efficiency.
  11. Spell check a completed MS Word document (first locating Tools menu on menu bar and then getting it’s shortcut). Concepts/Controls/Skills: Spell check, presence of menu bar and additional menus, navigation within menu bar, navigation within a dialog box, buttons, edit boxes, shortcut keys for menus.
  12. Save a file to floppy by shift tabbing to the Save In combo box; get hot key for future reference (reinforce by opening files from floppy, on another computer if possible). Concepts/Controls/Skills: floppy disk, combo boxes, practice getting hot keys, saving and opening files NOTE: If the child uses a notetaking device that came with a floppy drive, this is a good time to introduce the student to moving files between the computer and notetaker using floppies, providing whatever assistance is necessary but moving the child to performing this task independently.
  13. Go to the desktop, locate the My Documents folder, open it and review its contents. Delete unnecessary files, rename those whose name is poorly chosen. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Desktop, navigation in the desktop, “clicking” on a desktop item (using the keyboard to select it and hit enter), deleting files, renaming files.
  14. Go to the desktop, locate and open the Recycle Bin, delete items by using the delete key. On another occasion, delete them using the file menu. On still another occasion, simply select the recycle bin and use the context menu to delete the items. Concepts/Controls/Skills: more practice with the desktop, the Recycle Bin, introduction of context menus and the context menu key.
  15. Format an MS Word document (basic) using format menu, applying formatting as he/she types. Concepts/Controls:/Skills Line justification, text style (I.e. bold, italic, underline), more practice with menus and dialog boxes.
  16. Format an MS Word document (basic) using shortcut keys, applying formatting as he/she types. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Same as above, shortcut keys.
  17. Edit an MS Word document by selecting text and moving it (or a copy) to a different location within that document. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Selecting, cutting, copying, pasting.
  18. Format an MS Word document (basic) that was already written. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Line justification, text style (i.e. bold, italic, underline), formatting selected text, understanding where selecting text first is not necessary and why (i.e. line justification), more practice with menus and dialog boxes.
  19. Navigate between two open documents within MS Word. Move and/or copy text from one document to another. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Navigation between documents; practice with selecting, copying/cutting, and pasting; using access software to verify which document/window is currently active.
  20. Go to My Documents or the Recycle Bin and select multiple files for deletion. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Practice with the desktop and opening folders, transfer of selecting from edit boxes to list views.
  21. Go to My Documents and create new folders to help organize the contents. Having done so, use cut and paste to move individual files from my documents into the new folders. Select contiguous files to move. Introduce selection of non-contiguous files and move them as well. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Practice with desktop and opening folders, practice selecting files in a list, selecting non-contiguous files, moving files, navigating back to the previously-opened folder, logical organization of documents.
  22. Use Windows Explorer to perform the same tasks as above. Also use Windows Explorer to move files between a floppy and a folder within My Documents. Move files between a floppy and a folder within My Documents via the desktop icon by cutting and pasting on one occasion and using the context menu key on another. Compare and contrast. Concepts/Controls/Skills: practice with floppies, introduction of Windows Explorer, introduction of tree views and navigation between the tree view and the list view, more exposure to the context menu key, understanding that there are multiple ways to perform a task on a computer and selecting a preference.
  23. Apply previously learned file-management tasks while in the Open or Save As dialog box from within MS Word. What works, what does not, and when might this be preferable to other methods for managing files? Concepts/Controls/Skills: file management, additional opportunities for analyzing the different ways to perform a task on a computer.
  24. Having written a document in MS Word, save it directly to one of the newly-created folders by selecting the desired folder in the list view above the file name edit box. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Maintaining file organization, practice with dialog box navigation, practice with list views, practice opening folders in a different context.
  25. While editing a document in MS Word and noting a spelling error, move to the error and use the context menu to get suggested spellings. Concepts/Controls/Skills: More practice with spell-checking options, more practice with context menus. NOTE: By now, a student who can perform the above tasks has the concepts and skills necessary for email and using the web. Information on teaching these areas can be found later in this document. There are many possible times to introduce a child who cannot access print to scanning and reading a document. If it has not been introduced by this point, consider adding it here as part of a research activity.
  26. Navigate between two applications (e.g. Word and Duxbury; Word and Internet Explorer). Move and/or copy text from a document in one application to a document in the other. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Ability to have multiple windows, tasks running; switching between multiple, unrelated windows. Understanding where things can be pasted (i.e. edit boxes)
  27. Format an MS Word document with respect to font size, face, and color using format dialog box. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Existence of print sizes and different fonts; beginning to understand what sizes and fonts work best for him/her (if low vision) and for others; appropriate use of color within a document; more practice with selecting, and the format dialog box.
  28. Format an MS Word document with respect to font size, face, and color using toolbar. Concepts/Controls/Skills: All of the above, plus toolbars, toolbar access and navigation, returning to document.
  29. Use find to locate text. Concepts/Controls/Skills: Searching for text. Navigating between the Find dialog and the MS Word document.
  30. Use Find and Replace to edit/correct a document. Concepts/Controls/Skills: find and replace, navigating between the replace dialog box and the MS Word document.

When, Where, and How to Provide Instruction

Schools today teach computer skills to younger and younger children. It is not unheard of to find 4th graders researching a topic on the web, or 5th graders using spreadsheets to tally up survey results. These students are not yet expected to know how to type because they can look at the keyboard. Similarly, they can perform many tasks by pointing and clicking. And they can almost instantly gain an understanding of concepts such as web pages and spreadsheets simply by looking at them.

Students who are blind or visually impaired must master keyboarding, windows concepts and controls, keyboard equivalents for mouse commands, their assistive technology, and the concepts needed to understand the software to be used prior to accomplishing the same tasks as their peers. Therefore:

  • Start Early
    • Teach keyboarding as soon as it is educationally feasible so that an assessment can be conducted to determine the best access method for computer use, and instruction can be provided. Ideally, a student will have at least basic word processing skills mastered by early-mid year of the 3rd grade.
  • Devote Enough Time Specific to Technology Instruction
    • The use of technology, both mainstream and assistive, is a crucial component of the student’s education. Be sure to devote enough instructional time to meet your students’ needs in this area. While this packet addresses computer use, your student may also benefit from a notetaking device and will need to master those skills as well. Regardless of whether technology instruction is to be provided by an AT Specialist or a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (or both), technology instruction should be listed as a separate service on the IEP — just as Orientation and Mobility is. As a rule of thumb, for a typical braille reading student who has mastered keyboarding, no less than one hour per week of direct instruction should be provided, and more is often helpful.
  • Train the Paraeducator
    • Whenever possible, include the paraeducator in your training plan. While it is not expected that the paraeducator will master the technology to the extent that you and your student do, he/she can be quite helpful in reinforcing existing skills by being aware of the technology’s capabilities and the strategies the student uses to perform tasks, and knowing the language to use when prompting the student. In addition, the paraeducator can facilitate the smooth inclusion of technology within the classroom.
  • Include the Student in Computer Classes, and Pre-Teach
    • Whenever possible, the student should be included in computer classes and other classes/activities where computers are used. And, until the student has solid technology skills, someone who has a sufficient understanding of the mainstream and assistive technology should be present to assist and prompt as needed. In order for your student to gain the maximum benefit from these classes, it is useful to determine what skill will be covered in each lesson and pre-teach the necessary concepts, windows keystrokes, and assistive technology commands so that the student can focus on the lesson when it is presented. Try to get the computer class outline a semester (if not a year) in advance: some skills cannot be sufficiently pre-taught with one or two weeks’ notice. And some software is not accessible, which means that an alternative but equivalent software package should be sought and, if need be, purchased.
  • Facilitate the Use of Technology in the Home
    • Having an accessible computer at home enables the student to complete homework assignments in a format that is accessible to him/her and the classroom teacher. And it provides much-needed opportunities to practice. If the family has a computer and is receptive to assistive technology being added, seek the needed permissions from the school to install a copy. If there is not a computer in the home, seek an outside source. Sometimes the school district can even be convinced to provide one as it is educationally necessary. If the parents are willing, they should be provided with enough information and consultation to assist their child when needed and reinforce the skills you are teaching. Be sure to include use of technology in the home on the educational plan, and identify any technology that must travel between school and home.
  • Work with an Assistive Technology Specialist
    • An assistive technology specialist can be a valuable member of the educational team, providing assistance to you and/or direct services to your student. Consider the use of an AT specialist for:
  • Conducting an assessment to determine the most appropriate mainstream and assistive technology for your student
  • Installing and configuring the needed hardware and software
  • Providing training and technical assistance to the schools IT department (which may be responsible for maintaining your student’s computer)
  • Providing training and technical assistance to your students team on new/unfamiliar technology
  • Identifying technology that is and is not accessible to your student
  • Helping you and the team develop, maintain, and revise a plan for your students technology education and equipment acquisition
  • Providing regular training to you so that you can, in turn, train the student
  • Providing direct instruction to your student in the technology he/she needs. This may be time-limited or, if the team prefers, a regular component of the student’s educational plan

Progress Check

If you have taught your student using an approach and content similar to the previously outlined method, you should expect him/her to have mastered most, if not all, of the following areas:

Using Non-Alphanumeric Keys

  • Home
  • End
  • Delete
  • Backspace
  • Tab
  • Enter
  • Arrows
  • Control
  • Alt
  • Windows
  • Application/ Context Menu

Accessing and Navigating Windows Controls/Objects

  • Start Menu
  • Menus
  • Menu Bars
  • Edit Boxes
  • Dialog Boxes
  • List Views
  • Combo Boxes
  • Files
  • Folders
  • Desktop
  • My Documents
  • Recycle Bin
  • Tool Bars
  • Tree Views

Employing Concepts/Skills

  • Word Processing
  • File Management
  • Printing/Embossing
  • Formatting Documents
  • Shortcut Keys
  • Floppies
  • Using correct terminology
  • Context Menus
  • Transfering commands
  • Being Efficient
  • Multiple Document Navigation
  • Multiple Application Navigation

Applying the Assistive Technology

  • Launching/quitting AT software
  • Accessing all areas of the screen
  • Accessing needed controls
  • Determining the current location
  • Identifying hotkeys for menu items and dialog box controls

Once the student has mastered the above areas, the focus and methods of computer instruction become similar to that of his/her peers. The foundation you provided can be transferred to all other accessible software, so your student can master new software (email, web, spreadsheets, etc.) in whatever order makes sense for him/her and his academic program. And with this foundation, inclusion in computer courses becomes much simpler.

Where to Go Next

Although by this point your student has mastered many concepts and skills that many sighted users will never learn, he/she still has much more to master in order to become an independent computer user in school, at home, and eventually on the job. Teach the following skills in whatever order they are needed, so long as any prerequisite concepts have been mastered. Also be sure to provide opportunities to reinforce existing skills — otherwise they will be forgotten.

Word Processing

  • Bulleted and numbered lists
  • Margins
  • Indentation (left and right)
  • Hanging indents
  • Tables
  • Columns
  • Insert accented letters
  • Insert saved images
  • Insert symbols by ANSI
  • Use/disable auto-correct
  • Use/disable auto-format
  • Styles
  • Use help feature


  • Read messages
  • Compose new messages
  • Reply, forward messages
  • Send messages
  • Delete messages
  • Use the address book
  • Insert documents by pasting
  • Open attachments
  • Attach files
  • Navigate to different folders
  • Empty deleted items folder
  • Organize msgs. into folders
  • Create new folders
  • Create filters/rules
  • Set up new account
  • Use help feature


  • Open a URL
  • Read pages efficiently
  • Access and follow links
  • Search for text on a page
  • Move back, forward, home
  • Refresh page
  • Add pages to favorites
  • Use search engines
  • Fill out multi-field forms
  • Copy/paste into Word, Dux.
  • Save a page as text only
  • History, favorites panes
  • Organize, delete favorites
  • Use help feature

Braille Translation (as applicable)

  • Use Duxbury codes to translate foreign language assignments into braille
  • Reverse translate braille file (e.g. to cut and paste sections from web-braille book into a report)

Accessing Print (as applicable)

  • Scan, read typed sheets
  • Scan, read material in books
  • Locate sections of book
  • Use auto. document feeder
  • Locate and download e-books
  • Use web-braille

Configuring Windows to be More Accessible (as applicable)

  • Accessibility Options C.P.
  • Display C.P.
  • Mouse C.P.
  • Change object and text color
  • Change size of objects, text
  • Change windows scheme
  • Change mouse appearance
  • Use application zoom feature
  • Change screen saver
  • Change screen resolution
  • Change color depth
  • Disable other features that conflict with AT being used

Online Multimedia

  • Real (One) Player
  • Windows Media Player
  • Understand streaming media
  • Identify sources of media
  • Include content in report
  • Use for recreation/leisure
  • Use help feature

Instant Messaging

  • Download, install AIM
  • Create screen name
  • Configure AIM
  • Set up buddy list
  • Understand privacy settings*
  • Respond to IM
  • Initiate IM
  • Participate in (small) chat
  • Use help feature

*To minimize the potential for inappropriate messages and people reaching your student, it is recommended that you set the privacy settings so that only people on your student’s buddy list can contact them. Be sure to get parental approval before providing instruction, explain privacy settings, and be sure they know when their child has mastered the skill so that they can monitor his/her usage.


  • Insert data
  • Navigate efficiently to cells
  • Organize data logically
  • Format text
  • Format numbers
  • Sort data
  • Apply borders
  • Insert formulae
  • Insert functions
  • Use fill to paste formulae
  • Define print areas
  • Apply independently to appropriate tasks

Database Applications

  • Insert data in existing db.
  • Navigate efficiently to records
  • Retrieve data
  • Search for records
  • Organize data logically
  • Format text
  • Format numbers
  • Sort data
  • Create simple calc. field.
  • Apply independently to appropriate tasks

Presentation Applications

  • Create visually-appealing, logically organized overheads
  • Create a visually-appealing, logically organized presentation that includes sounds and pictures
  • Independently give a presentation from the computer

Windows Objects and Controls: Form, Function, States, and Navigation

[Graphic. This image takes up the rest of the page and serves as a section divider. Within the image, text naming all of the different Windows controls is scattered throughout. The text is in different fonts, different sizes, and some is running vertically. At the center of the image, surrounded by all the controls, is a clip art image. In this clip art, there is a person standing next to a computer that is his height. He is holding an equally large hammer above his head and is about to swing it upon the computer.]


Form: Rectangle

Function: Contains other objects and controls

States: Active, Inactive; Maximized, Minimized, or “somewhere in between”

Note: Some windows (applications like MS Word) contain separate windows for documents. In which case the application window is the “parent” and the document window(s) are “children.”

Access inactive parent window: Alt tab

Access inactive child window: Control F6 (usually)

Change size of parent: Alt Space, then select item

Change size of child: Alt Dash, then select item

Close child: Control F4 or Alt F then C

Exit parent: Alt F4 or Alt F then X (but sometimes Alt F then C)

Title Bar:

Form: Top line of the window

Function: Identifies the window (e.g. “Microsoft Word – Document 1”)

Access: Must use screen reader commands for this purpose

Menu Bar:

Form: Horizontal bar found just below the application’s title bar

Function: Contains menus for its application

Access: Alt (with or without letter)

Exit: Escape (Alt works too)

Navigation: Left and right arrows for menus

Open a closed menu: Enter or down arrow


Form: Vertical List – but with circular properties. Think of it as a Lazy Susan.

Function: Provides selection of items to choose from

Access: Depends on location. Menu bar menus as above; start menu (windows key or control escape)

Navigation: Up and down arrows.

Note: When you get to the bottom and go down you wind up at the top. When you get to the top and go up you wind up at the bottom. Use enter (or shortcut) to select an item.

Exit: Escape

Tool Bar:

Form: Horizontal bar with buttons (usually graphical) typically located below the menu bar but they usually can be moved

Function: Provides mouse users with quicker access to common items located in various menus

Navigation: Get to the menu bar first. Control tab to the first toolbar. Tab moves you from item to item within the toolbar. Control tab moves you to the next toolbar and eventually back to the menu bar.

Exit: Escape

Note: Menus and shortcut keys are far more efficient. Screen readers also provide ways of accessing toolbars if toolbar access is deemed necessary.

Status Bar:

Form: Line with document and/or application-specific information located at the bottom of an application window.

Function: Provides quick access to useful information

Access: Must use the screen reader’s commands for this purpose

Dialog Box:

Form: Fixed-size window that contains controls related to its particular function

Function: Gets information from the user

Navigation: Tab and Shift Tab (or shortcut key) for controls

Exit: Escape (Alt F4 works too)

Multi-page Dialog Box:

Form: Dialog box with “page tabs” (look like file folder tabs) near the top. Each page tab takes you to a different page within that dialog box. Only one page can be showing at once (so the controls that were in front of you will be gone when you choose another page).

Function: Presents dialog box information and controls that are too numerous or complex for a single window. Helps simplify and organize.

Navigation: Select the page you want by control tab. Otherwise it’s a simple dialog box.

Exit: Escape (Alt F4 works too)

Edit Box:

Form: Box (size – one line or many -- depends on function)

Function: Allows user to type and edit information

Navigation: Arrow keys (with or without modifiers to move by larger units, select, etc.), typing, backspace and delete, etc.

Read-only Edit Box:

Form: Edit box

Function: Presents user with unchangeable text (e.g. email message that was received)

Navigation: Just like an edit box, but you cannot change the text.

Combo Box:

Form: A vertical list, but initially (and sometimes during navigation) only one line is showing. Has a little graphical arrow on its right.

Function: Similar to a menu. Provides selection of items to choose from in a dialog box or document

Navigation: Up and down arrows. But it is not “circular” like a menu. Note in some combo boxes you must down arrow to open it before you can navigate up and down. Alt down arrow will also open combo boxes.

Edit Combo Box:

Form: A combination between an edit box and a combo box. Looks like a combo box with a cursor.

Function: Provide selection of items to choose from in a dialog box or document – BUT also allows the user to type a different item.

Navigation: Up and down arrows OR type what you want

Spin Box:

Form: A single line control with text (usually numbers). It is similar to a combo box. Think of its movement like the knob/dial on a radio. It cannot be expanded like a combo box (i.e. only one item can be showing at a time). Has small graphical up and down arrows on its right.

Function: Provides the user with a selection of items (usually numbers) from which to choose one setting.

Navigation: Up and down arrow

Edit Spin Box:

Form: Combination of an edit box and a spin box

Function: Same as Spin Box

Navigation: Up and down arrow OR type in the number you want.

Check Box:

Form: Small box preceded or followed by a description. Often they appear in groups. Usually found in dialog boxes (or web forms) sometimes in documents.

Function: Allows user to decide if they want that item to be true

State: Checked or unchecked (on or off)

Navigation: Toggle state with the space bar

Note: Given a group of checkboxes, you can check as many or as few of the items as you wish. Compare this to radio buttons.

Radio Button:

Form: Small circle preceded or followed by a description. They will appear in groups. Usually found in dialog boxes (or web forms), sometimes in documents.

Function: Allows user to decide WHICH item of the group they want. Only one per group can be chosen (but you might have multiple groups).

State:” Checked” or “unchecked” (on or off)

Navigation: Having landed on a group of radio buttons, using the up and down arrows will move you from radio button to radio button. Whichever one you are on is the one that is selected. Note that this is often a source of confusion for the child (and adult) who is blind.


Form: Looks like a push button

Function: Allows user to perform a particular action in a dialog box (or web form) Examples-- Ok, apply, cancel, save, yes, no.

Access: Default button (has a dark border around it) with enter. Active button (i.e. the one you are on) with enter or space bar (usually both work, sometimes only space bar works)

List View:

Form: Typically* a vertical list

Function: Allows user to select an item (an icon, an email message, etc) from a group

State: An item in the list can be selected or not selected.

Navigation: If an item has focus (i.e. you are on it) and it is unselected, hit the space bar. Arrowing to an item causes it to be selected. It’s often faster to hit the first letter of the desired item if you happen to know what it is. Hit enter to open the selected item.

*Note: In My Computer/Windows Explorer, if view as icons is selected, the user may have to left and right arrow to locate an item. Change this to list or details by going under the View menu and selecting either or those.

Tree View:

Form: A hierarchical list view. Like an outline.

Function: Allow user to select an item (usually a folder)

Navigation: Up and down arrow. If you land on an item that is closed (has a plus on its left indicating that it contains folders that are not showing), open it with right arrow and then down arrow to the desired item. If you land on an item that is open (has a minus on its left and folders indented under it) and you want to close it, do so with the left arrow. If you are in the indented folders and you want to jump to the folder that holds them, do so with the left arrow. It’s often faster to hit the first letter of the desired item if you happen to know what it is – and if it is showing.

Note: Tree Views often (though not always) are accompanied by list views. You select the folder you want in the tree view (usually on the left) and then navigate to the list view (usually on the right) to select a document. In this instance, F6 or tab (depends upon the application) will move you between the tree view and the list view.


The form and function of each object/control dictate how you access these items with the keyboard!