Article

A means to magnification

Specialist magnification software can help students with low vision to access every day computer applications, writes Mark Tweedale.

If students can’t see something on a screen, there’s a simple solution: magnification.

There are a number of software programs available that enable them to specify such things as preferred magnification level, area to be magnified (moveable lens, split screen or whole screen), size of mouse pointer, colour of screen, and so on, with the simple press of a keystroke.

Screen magnification can be adjusted ‘on the fly’ from x2 to x36, depending on what the user wants to look at. Some use magnification all of the time; others prefer to toggle it on when needed. The software also works with Web browsers and has the advantage over built-in zoom features (such as Ctrl+ in Firefox) of enlarging images and text without reformatting the page.

In recent years, a screen reader option has been added to magnification software. This takes away the need to scan for a certain section of a document by allowing the student to ‘listen’ to the text.

Once they have heard the bit they’re after, they can edit it visually using the magnification option. I have also encouraged students to proof their work by getting the program to read it to them.

Magnification software helps level the playing field for visually-impaired students but teachers need to be aware that each has to learn the skill of scanning over a magnified image and piecing together in their mind all the different parts seen to produce a whole.

Even when mastered, users have to work harder to access the same information that a ‘normally sighted’ student would achieve in a glance – and, understandably, can get tired from their efforts!

BY MARK TWEEDALE
ICT PD FACILITATOR FOR BLENNZ CLUSTER

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Categories: Article, Issue 1