Microsoft Word is one of the most used programs in the world, a productivity juggernaut of a program within the Microsoft Office suite. Inevitably, we are all likely to use it at some point in our lives. For most of us, it occurs during our schooling typing up documents for assignments and reading materials made by others. I, a teacher, write up Word documents nearly every day.
My students are no exception to this fact of life, and I know this because I am the one giving them the assignments that need to be completed in Word! They have all sorts of visual experiences, ranging from low vision all of the way to total blindness. Today, I want to address how a simple setting in Word can be used as a starting point for students with low vision when they are beginning to determine their best accessibility settings for reading the contents of a Word document.
Something you may notice when you open up a new Word document is that there is a lot of wasted space to the left and right of the document. I'm not talking about the margins of the document itself, but the view is often zoomed out such that you have significant empty space to the sides of the document. To the general population, this is not a big deal. However, for students with low vision, they may experience difficulty seeing the default size 11 or 12 font.
As I have hinted, the setting we will be adjusting is the document zoom level. When a document appears with the large amount of empty space to the sides, it is likely at a very low zoom level at or near 100%. This level is often the default zoom level, and it closely approximates the size and view of your document as it might appear printed out. That is, if you hold a standard 8.5x11 in. sheet of paper to your screen, you will see that it is close in size to what is on the screen.
We will be setting the zoom level to a setting called "Page Width." Essentially, you will tell Word to zoom in on the document until the document's entire width fills up the screen. To get to this setting, the user will need to locate and select the View tab; there is no direct shortcut. Alternatively, the user can press Alt to enable hotkey access to the Word ribbon tabs. Black boxes will appear on top of each tab with a letter that can be pressed to jump to that tab. View can be accessed by pressing the W key. Once there, the user will locate the Zoom section of the ribbon, as well as the Page Width setting within it. Using the hotkey letters, the user can also press I. That's it! Just like that, Word will zoom in on the page, and you will find that there is nolonger any wasted space on the sides.
The primary benefit of setting a document to the Page Width zoom level is that it is a digital equivalent of bringing a paper document closer to your face. That is, without changing the font size, text will appear larger because the scale at which it is being presented has increased as well.
In sum, users who would like to use the page width zoom level can click on the View tab and then click on the Page Width button that is in the Zoom section of the ribbon. Quicker shortcuts to get there are to press Alt, W, and I in sequence (not at the same time).
I will note that this approach is just a start. For some students this solution will be sufficient to avoid having to adjust font sizes, but for other students, this approach will not enlarge the font enough for comfortable, fluent reading. What I'd recommend at this point is to use a screen magnifier like Windows Magnifier to then magnify the screen contents until it appears at the desired size. Furthermore, if you are worried about typing off the page with the limited field of view, you can set Magnifier to follow the text insertion point! I wrote about this feature recently, and you can read about it here.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful! Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments!