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Collection: Technology for Students Who are Visually Impaired

Purple arrow (1137 bytes)Magnification Technology

NCIP Staff, 1994

The following is a summary of Magnification technology and adaptive devices that assist users with low vision through Visual Magnification. In addition, this document provides descriptions of specific products to illustrate the technology. The products are used as examples of the technology and do not constitute a complete list of products. Inclusion of a product's name does not imply endorsement of that product . Descriptions of products are supplied by the manufacturers and are not evaluations of the products.

Magnification helps those with low vision by enlarging text in print and on computer screens. Products in this group can range from a simple magnifying glass, which attaches to a computer monitor, to screen enlarging software and hardware systems that incorporate closed-circuit television (CCTV).

[Magnification Input | Magnification Monitoring | Hardware-based Magnification |
Magnification Output | Software Applications with Built-in Magnification

Magnification Input

A user with low vision can input material into a computer using a standard computer keyboard with keyboard labels. These are large print labels that are affixed to the computer keys. The price range for this product is $10 - $20.

Sample Products

Combination Braille/Large Print Keytop Labels (Hooleon Corporation)
Adhesive labels with Braille symbols and large print characters on them. For IBM PCs and other 101-style keyboards.

Enlarged Alpha & Numeric Keytops (Hoolean Corporation)
Designed to fit IBM PCs and compatibles. Letters are in 38 point type. Available in black on white or white on black.

Large Keytop Kit (ComputAbility Corporation)
ZoomCaps (Meeting the Challenge)For Apple II, Macintosh and IBM PCs. Labels are available in white or black letters.

Magnification Monitoring

Visual aids

For help in viewing the monitor, magnifying lenses can be mounted in eyeglass frames or attached to a computer monitor and provide up to 2X magnification. Special adaptations in the form of monitor magnifying screens are also available.

Sample Products

CompuLenz (Florida New Concepts Marketing)
A lens designed to fit over many computer monitors. Provides up to 2 times magnification.

Anti-Glare Magnification Screen (Sher-Mark Products)
For Macintosh. Fits over the screen of all Macintosh 128K, 512K, Plus, Plus Classic and SE computers. Lens doubles the size of characters and images on the screen. A polarizing filter reduces glare and improves contrast.


Software-based Magnification

These products allow the user to increase the size of the text displayed on the computer monitor up to 16X. These programs are generally memory resident and will run with most applications. Many programs have features that facilitate cursor navigation around the screen. In addition, some application programs, especially word processing programs for children, have some built-in magnification. Prices for these products range from $100- $600.

Sample Products

Business Focus (Artic Technologies)
A screen enlargement system for IBM PC and PS/2 and compatibles running either DOS or Microsoft Windows 3.0. Enlarges the image in whatever software program is being used. Enlarged characters are shown in large fonts specifically designed for users with low vision. Provides for enlargement of graphics.

CloseView (Apple Computer)
For Apple Macintosh computers. Magnifies screen 2 to 16 times. Permits the screen display to be changed from black on white to white on black. It is possible to turn CloseView on and off, and to change the enlargement size.

inLARGE (Berkeley Systems)
Software for the Macintosh. InLARGE magnifies everything on the screen 2 to 16 times. As the user types or moves the mouse, the view follows the cursor.

Large-Type Display Utility Software (National Institute for Rehabilitation Engineering)
For IBM PC, PS/2 and compatibles. Enlarge print on the computer screen for most commercial software. Various versions of the products magnify to different sizes and offer a variety of features. The 1X-16X All-Mode version is most encompassing, offers 16 times magnification, views full screen or split screen, displays text, graphics and windows, and magnification can track the cursor.

LPDOS , LPDOS Deluxe Edition with LP-Windows (Optelec)
These are different versions of the LPDOS product for IBM PCs, PS/2, compatibles, and Toshiba laptops. Magnifies computer text, graphics, and animation from 2 to 16 times. Program allows the user to control all aspects of the display including print size, character and line spacing, cursor styles and screen colors. Control is accessible from keyboard, mouse or menus. Has split screen option that allows viewing in large print and normal print. LP-Deluxe Edition offers support for the Microsoft Windows environment and MS-DOS applications.

MAGic and MAGic Deluxe (Microsystems Software)
For IBM PCs and compatibles. Provides magnification for most graphics and text based application programs running under DOS or Microsoft Windows. MAGic enlarges 2 times; Deluxe between 1.2 and 12 times.

Verbal View (Computer Conversations)
For IBM PCs, PS/2s, and compatibles. Character can be enlarged to 3 different sizes. Blocks of text or single lines can be selected and enlarged. Enlargement can be turned on and off and user can move down the screen as desired or set an automatic line reading function.

ZoomText (AI Squared)
For IBM PCs, PS/2s, and compatibles. Enlarges screen text up to 8 times. Screen can be scrolled automatically or manually. Horizontal and vertical split screen modes may be used to allow enlarged and standard text to be viewed simultaneously. Control is provided by menus that are displayed at the same level of magnification chosen for viewing text.

Hardware-based Magnification

Hardware for magnification comes with text enlargement software as well as a dedicated video-controller circuit card that processes the magnification commands. In addition, it offers features not found on software-based magnification systems. One such feature is the capability of adding a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system which consists of a detachable video camera and a television screen. This kind of a system can be purchased for use without a PC as well. The addition to a computer, however, allows the user to scan books or other printed materials into computer memory. This is especially useful for an individual who must interact with printed text while using a computer. The computer image can be split so that half the screen contains the printed text; the other half contains the text created by the user. The computer image can be magnified with the additional magnification software as well. Since these products are hardware, they do not use up any of the computer's memory to run. Hardware products for magnification cost from $1,000 - $3,000.

Sample Products

Chroma CCD (TeleSensory, Inc.)
Magnifies up to 45 times on a 13" color monitor and up to 60 times on a 20" color monitor. Chroma camera is compatible with the Vista/Lynx computer magnification system, producing color images on a VGA computer monitor.

ClearView (HumanWare, Inc.)
Magnifies 4 times to 35 times on a 12" black-and-white monitor, 5 times to 50 times on a 17" black-and-white monitor, and 4 times to 40 times on a 14" color monitor. Includes windowing, X-Y table, overlining, underlining, intensity, contrast, zoom, and brightness control.

Large Print Display Processor (TeleSensory, Inc.)
For Apple II, IBM PCs, PS/2s and compatibles. A peripheral device which enlarges text up to 16 times on the computer monitor. Enlarged area can be moved around using a joystick control and can be made to follow the screen cursor. Screen image can be positive or negative. Does not enlarge graphics.

LV-103 (Independent Living Aids)
Provides large-screen viewing on a television screen or computer monitor with a choice of one of three interchangeable lenses. Offers only magnification without digital capability.

Magni-Cam (Innovations)
A portable CCTV system that includes of a hand-held camera used to scan materials for display. Magnification range is dependent on the size of the screen being used for display, but enlargement sizes of 6 to 12 times can be accommodated on a 12" screen. Unit can display in reverse video, and has a built-in contrast control adjustment for filtering out "bleed through" from poor-quality print.

Meva ME2A (TeleSensory, Inc.)
A portable, battery-powered CCTV system consisting of a hand-held camera, a 4" video display, an analog/digital processor, and a rechargeable battery pack.

Optelec products (Optelec)
Optelec 20/20. Hardware designed for use in the classroom, or at work. Useful for reading mail and newspapers, checking prescriptions, writing letters, or paying bills. The 20/20 connects to IBM or IBM clone computer. Magnifies from 3 to 60 times. 14" screen. Takes up 14" of table space. Optelec 20/20+ has large 20" screen for larger documents like newspapers or spreadsheets. Magnifies from 5 to 60 times and has 20 background/image color combinations. Optelec 20/20 Spectrum provides magnificaiton of text, photos and graphics in full color on a 20' screen. A color-kill switch provides contrast black and white viewing. The Spectrum Jr. offers the same features of the 20/20 Spectrum described above with a 14" screen.

Vantage CCD (TeleSensory, Inc.)
Has a 14" monitor that enlarges print up to 45 times. Besides the basic read-write features, it has electronic windowing for isolating lines of text, overline/underline, and split screen.

VersiColor XL CCD (TeleSensory, Inc.)
Magnifies up to 45 times on a 14" color monitor. Offers choice of 24 customized foreground and background color combinations.

Vista ,Vista 2, Vista with Windows (TeleSensory, Inc.)
For IBM PCs and compatibles. System consists of an internal circuit card, software program, and a mouse. By pressing buttons on the mouse, the user can enlarge an area of the screen, move the area to be enlarged, mask off one line for viewing, jump from one end of a line to the beginning of another, and stretch an image taller or wider. Magnifies 2 to 16 times.

Voyager (TeleSensory, Inc.)
Magnifies up to 45 times on a 12" black-and-white monitor. Includes enhanced contrast capabilities, positive-negative image reversal, and tilt screen display.

Magnification Output

A large font (minimum 18 point) and a print type that has few flourishes, such as Helvetica font, are suggested for printing materials accessible to persons with low vision. Most printers can accommodate the minimum requirements. Some software programs, however, expand the options for magnifying output.

Sample Products

Magic Keyboard (Woodsmith Software)
For IBM PCs and compatibles. Uses graphics to create printed large character sets and seven type styles readable by persons with low vision. This program does not enlarge text on the screen; the characters are enlarged when they are printed. Data can be entered from any standard word processing program or from direct type mode one line at a time. Direct type mode allows for page formatting and some online editing. Check compatibility of printers with the manufacturer.

Software Applications with Built-in Magnification

In addition to the above products, there are several software programs, especially word processing applications, that include magnification as a built-in feature. Some of these are programs especially designed for children, such as Big Letters and Kidsword. Other magnification programs are designed to work only with specific applications, such as BIG for WordPerfect.

Sample Products

B-Edit (Hexagon Products)
For IBM PCs and compatibles. A word processing program with character sizes that can be adjusted for output. Includes basic editing function, spelling checking, abbreviation/expansion capability, and supports Wordstar text editing commands.

BEX 3.1 (Raised Dot Computing)
A word processor for Apple IIe and IIc computers that can create large print, Braille, or synthesized speech output. Large print can appear on the screen or compatible dot-matrix printers. BEX can translate standard print files to grade 2 Braille, or back-translate grade 2 Braille files to print. Special symbols, called translators, can be typed into the files to determine whether grade 2 or grade 1 Braille is produced. Word processing functions include editing, reviewing, changing, page numbering, creating running heads, and setting margins and tabs. Three preview modes create an exact image of the printed or embossed page for visual and voice review. An Apple computer with a minimum of 128K is required. Contact manufacturer for details on compatibility with Braille output devices, printers, and speech synthesis hardware.

BIG for WordPerfect, BIG for 1-2-3 (Hexagon Products)
For IBM PCs and compatibles. Designed to work with the specified applications. Included in both products are 6 large-character utility programs which provide a text file browser, font control, and large-character replacements for DOS Type, Print, and DIR commands.

Big Letters (Easter Seals and Lehigh Valley Microcomputer Project)
For Apple IIs. Designed to introduce preschool children to word processing concepts. Letters appear on the screen in large print. The user is given auditory feedback whenever a key is pressed.

Kidsword (Kidsview Software, Inc.)
For Apple IIs. A large character word processor designed for children. Character and background colors are adjustable. Large print can be generated on compatible printers. Manual is in large print.

Low Vision Editor (Donald Ady)
For TRS-80s. A word processing program that provides large-print characters on the computer screen. Four versions provide different levels of enlargement.

Magic Slate II (Wings for Learning/Sunburst)
For Apple IIs. A word processing package with three levels, the easiest level including large print characters.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.