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for the Blind

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Magnification Programs for the Computer Screen

Functioning Without a Screen Magnification Program

Screen magnification software programs are loaded into the computer's memory, and remain active so as to magnify the text and graphics that appear in programs and applications run thereafter.

Persons with considerable vision may not need a screen magnification program. One alternative is a larger monitor, which provides larger text or graphics while keeping all material on the screen. In addition, by lowering the screen resolution, bigger pixels are used, which results in larger text and graphics.

Also, in some applications the user can set the fonts used by the application (for example, WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, and Internet Explorer) or zoom in on the display (for example, Acrobat Reader).

In Windows 2000, ME, XP and NT, there is an accessibility wizard, which walks the user through a series of Windows appearance options. These include adjustments for the font size, screen resolution, scroll bar size, icon size, color scheme, mouse cursor appearance and mouse cursor blink rate. The main accessibility feature in Windows, however, is its screen magnifier that can also be setup through the accessibility wizard.

Although the default color scheme in Windows is black text on a gray background, it can be changed to be easily distinguished from its background using one of Windows high contrast color schemes. There are many different mouse cursor options, including cursors whose appearance is an inversion of what is being viewed, and cursors that can leave a comet like trail behind the mouse. In addition, the size of cursors can be changed.

If a sound card is installed in the computer, it is possible to attach sounds (through the Sounds option in the Control Panel) to many Windows events, such as opening and closing a program or minimizing or maximizing the size of windows.

Full-Featured Screen Magnification Programs

A full-featured screen magnifier comes with many options and can reach high levels of magnification. The three full-featured screen magnifiers on the market today are LunarPlus made by Dolphin, MAGic made by FreedomScientific, and ZoomText made by Ai Squared. Dolphin also makes SuperNova, which integrates Lunar with the screen reading and Braille output capability of their full-featured screen reader, Hal. FreedomScientific also offers JAWS, a full-featured screen reader.

Today's full-featured screen magnification programs are compatible with Windows Vista, XP, and NT/2000. For those who need more than magnification, it is possible to use a built-in screen reader with today's screen magnifiers. Full-featured screen magnifiers cost between $300-$400 and can go as high as $600.

Magnification programs are designed to work like a magnifying glass moving over a page. Programs can automatically follow the cursor, magnifying the area around it. It is also common to be able to automatically move across and down a magnified page at a preset speed. Additionally, in the event of losing your place in a magnified document, programs can show the unmagnified screen, emphasizing the magnified area with color or shading. Fonts used in magnification programs are usually designed to smooth out the jagged or "stair-step" appearance of computer-produced diagonal or curved lines.

Today's full-featured screen magnifiers can magnify all screen items, including the mouse pointer, text cursor, icons, buttons, and title bars. In addition, the magnifiers provide a set of mouse tracking features, such as the option to link the mouse pointer to screen movement, increase the size and visibility of the mouse pointer, and limit mouse movement to horizontal or vertical directions only. Other features include breaking lines of magnified text automatically so that they fit on the screen and the option of selecting various contrast levels.

For the most part screen magnifiers do not have problems with display drivers as they once did. Still, manufacturers will often recommend a specific driver, resolution, and color depth setting.

Browse Screen Magnification Products

Scanning Systems for Low Vision Users

These systems use a scanner to take a text or image document, enhance it, and then display it enlarged. Some options include the use of OCR technology so one can edit the document after it is scanned, and built in screen readers to read the document out loud. These products range in price from $495 to $995.

Short Videos

To view a short video about screen magnification software choose one of the following links.

To view a short video about screen magnification technologies choose one of the following links.

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