Magnify Printed Material With Closed Circuit TVs

Low vision users may have difficulty reading books and other printed matter.  Closed circuit TVs (CCTVs) use video cameras aimed at print materials; the image appears on a screen. This image can then be modified by enlarging the text size or changing black-on-white text to white-on-black ("inverted text"). They can also be used to magnify other things; for example, some people use CCTVs to facilitate stitching needlepoint or tying fishing lures.

This article covers the options for CCTVs.

CCTVs range in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.  Options to consider include the following:

  • Portability.  Portable CCTVs can be taken and used anywhere; e.g., libraries, stores, and classrooms. They are generally less expensive than non-portable ("desktop") models, but have smaller screens. Some portable models are particularly good for reading text on curved surfaces, such as food cans.
  • Computer Interface. CCTVs that use your computer monitor as its display are more economical in terms of both space and cost. Many of these models allow for a split-screen, so, for example, you could use them to simultaneously see magnified printed materials and a word processor or website.
  • Auto Focus. Some CCTVs can automatically adjust their focus depending on what they are pointed at.
  • Range of Color Options. Besides inverted text, you may be able to use other color combinations, such as black on yellow or yellow on dark blue.
  • Formatting. A few CCTVs can reformat text, so that it appears in columns rather than the exact format used on the original page. This can make text easier to read.

Some mobile devices and tablet computers with cameras now offer apps that perform some CCTV features. Their lower price and the fact that they can be used for other purposes may make them a good solution.

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