Low vision is a condition, often caused by a number of eye diseases which damage parts of the eye, in which individuals have significantly reduced vision. Individuals with low vision have some sight, but usually it is not sufficient to get by in daily life without some assistance. Often they are not able to read, drive, cook or work on a computer without a visual aid. Today there are many low vision aids available on the market to help those with low vision to function independently in performing daily tasks.
Computer use is one activity that often requires assistance and the good news is the technology to aid computer users with low vision is always improving.
Here are some devices and programs on the market to help:
There are a number of ways to enlarge the text on your computer screen in addition to handheld magnifiers.
Via Your Computer Operating System: Both newer generation Windows and Mac operating systems have screen magnifiers built in. These do not have as many capabilities as purchased screen reader programs but for many with mild low vision, they may be sufficient.
Via Browser: When using the Internet most browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer) allow you to change the size of the page or text on the screen to suit your needs. To enlarge the text on a PC simply hold down the Control (“Ctrl”) key on your keyboard and either tap the “+” key or roll the wheel on your mouse. To reduce the size tap the “-” key or turn the mouse wheel in the opposite direction. On a MAC, you press command and shift at the same time along with the “+” or “-” keys.
Additionally, the browser might have a drop down option under the “view” tab that allows you to Zoom the screen in or out or make the text larger or smaller. Keep in mind that if you are using a larger higher quality screen, this will enable you to see bigger and more clearly as well.
Screen magnification programs: there are a number of free and paid software programs that will enlarge the text, picture and images on your computer screen.
Screen Readers and Text to Speech Programs:
There are a number of programs that enable you to “read” what is on the computer without needing to see it - these are designed for people that are totally blind as well. These programs work by scanning the text and icons on a page and converting it to speech which is read aloud. Some of these programs also have a cursor on the page that moves along with the voice.
Up to date Microsoft and Apple operating systems do have simple, built in screen readers but they may be limited. The Chrome browser and Android devices do as well. Nevertheless depending on your abilities, you may prefer to purchase a program with more comprehensive options and usability.
If you are looking for something simpler, text-to-speech programs exist in which you select a portion of the text you want to read and the program reads it for you.
Adjusting your screen to the highest contrast will enable the letters and images on the monitor to stand out. Font should be adjusted to achieve a dark text on a light background. Further it is advisable to reduce glare as much as possible. This may require adjusting window shades and indoor lights or even purchasing an anti-glare screen to reduce glare that can’t be eliminated.
You can purchase special keyboards, mice and monitor magnifiers made specifically to enhance usability for those with low vision. Purchasing a large LCD screen for your monitor will also help to enhance visibility.
Computers can be a window to open our world to information, connections, work and play. Individuals with low vision can access all of this as well with the assistance of specialized software, devices and programs using the strengths and senses that they do possess.