Lighting, brightness, contrast, magnification, clarity

Accessibility Features in Computer Programs

Most word processors, spreadsheets, and other popular programs include features that are useful to people with disabilities. These are often documented in the application’s Help function under “Accessibility.”

Examples

Zoom magnifies the size of the document text on the screen, so that it can be viewed at one size and printed out at another without needing to reformat. This does not affect the text size of other parts of the application, such as the menu bar or dialogue boxes; to change these, see “Accessibility Features in Operating Systems.”

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Apple’s Mobile Products (iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch)

In many ways, Apple’s iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touch are ideal accessibility tools. They’re lightweight and easy to use. The wide range of applications -- built-in, free, or generally inexpensive -- suit a variety of needs. The touchscreen interface is ideal for many people who can't use a keyboard or mouse. Finally, because they’re mainstream products, people use them without feeling self-conscious or paying a large amount of money. This article covers some of the accessibility features and ways you can use these devices.

Apple has included some powerful accessibility features in the iOS operating system used by its mobile devices:

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Accessibility Features in Computer Operating Systems

All current computer operating systems include features that make using the computer easier for people with disabilities.  For many people, these features may provide sufficient accommodations or may be the best available solution. In other cases, the features are scaled-down versions of capabilities that are available in more sophisticated versions from third-party vendors.

These features accommodate a wide range of users:

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Keyboards for Users with Low Vision

Regular keyboards are hard for some people to read. There are a variety of ways to address this; this article covers some of the basics to help you get started.

  • If lighting is an issue, gooseneck lamps and other task lighting can provide more light on a standard keyboard. Take care to minimize glare from the lamp onto the monitor.
     

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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:

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Screen Magnifier Software

Simple magnifiers are built into all operating systems.

">Screen magnifier software enlarges text and other elements on the monitor.  Simple versions are built into all operating systems, and on some smartphones and other portable devices

This article covers both free and third-party AT solutions.

Try it yourself:

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Digital Tablets Can Improve Speed and Ease of Reading for People with Moderate Vision Loss

An innovative new study exploring the potential of the iPad and other back-lighted digital tablet devices to increase the reading ability and reading speed of persons with low vision  was presented at the 2012 American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting

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Database of Books in Accessible Formats

People who are blind or have low vision, as well as librarians and others looking for accessible books, can find the Louis database at the American Printing House for the Blind that covers more than 300,000 titles, available in braille, large print, and other accessible formats.

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