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  1. #1
    Mazel tov! bronze trophy kohoutek's Avatar
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    Screen Magnifier for people with poor or very poor vision - What can they do?

    Just to give a bit of background info. My has been tied to the wheelchair for close to two decades now. She manages her way about our city, more or less fine, thanks to the relatively solid infrastructure and special aids that most parts of our city provides (Hamburg, Germany). Still, it's certainly not the best of lives she is living currently, partly due to the fact that she has plenty of other health issues that do require me to help her whenever needed, but about a year ago, she had her eyes checked in a normal checkup that you do when you have Diabetis II and other diseases. Anyway, the doctors (oh, I can't tell you how much I have grown to despise some of them - and I'm not knocking them all as I was borne into a home that was full of medical doctors to begin with). Due to that fact, I also know that doctors are prone to failure just as anyone else is, but rarely is the consequence as dramatic.

    In this case, the doctors (two of them) made a wrong diagnosis. A laser surgery was meant to eliminate the gradual decrease of eye deterioration caused by her disease. And, alas, with that surgery, she's lost a total of 70% of her eyesight.

    This is overly dramatic for someone who carries the bookworm gene in her.
    So, what to do? She can't read normal books anymore. I print out books with a font size of around 30pt min so that reading is possible. Even then, she feels more comfortable with reading with her reading glasses that are of very little help. I have bought her magnifying glasses, but those that I have found and bought her make reading a nightmare as she has to shift her head along with the lines of text she reads.

    And now to the actual question, if you haven't fallen asleep yet; She has discovered the internet! And she loves it. It's a great way for her to read information, newspapers, essays, reports, everything that she so relies on to make her day enjoyable.

    But what good methods are out there? I don't mind the costs, though it can be free, cheap, expensive, as long as it works.

    I have found a screen magnifier, but have no comparison means. There is no demo as far as I can see on their site.

    Have any of you any experiences with the tools that are available? Perhaps you have suggestions even?

    There is nothing I'd like more than for her to have the possibility of reading books & newspapers again (online) as well as surfing the web.

    This subject is very dear for me, so thanks in advance for any advice you can/are willing to give on what you feel is a good recommendation or tip.
    Maleika E. A. | Rockatee | Twitter | Dribbble



  2. #2
    Follow Me On Twitter: @djg gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Grossman's Avatar
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    Internet Explorer and Opera have the ability to magnify any webpage, not just the text size, but scale up the whole page which preserves formatting, images, etc.

    Windows Vista has a screen magnifier built in. It's under Accessories > Ease of Access in the start menu. I don't know about XP or before. It also has a built in narrator and voice recognition.

  3. #3
    Resident curmudgeon bronze trophy gary.turner's Avatar
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    Firefox also gives you the option of magnifying the text only, or magnifying the page, itself.

    With today's scalable fonts, magnification to gargantuan proportions is awesome.
    There is zero need for any third party software, as Firefox and other browsers allow all the magnification your screen can handle. PDF readers do the same.

    If you were running Linux, and your monitor could stand the altered resolutions, you could zoom the desktop itself. On an old 17in monitor, I can select a 640×480px, 800×600px, 1024×768px portion or the whole 1280×960px nominal screen size. At the lesser resolutions, the balance sticks off the screen, out of sight; you simply drag the desktop to the part you want to view. You can switch resolutions in windows, but you can't keep the desktop intact while doing it; and certainly not with a simple keystroke.

    cheers,

    gary
    Last edited by gary.turner; Apr 21, 2009 at 22:00. Reason: pimping Linux to the unwashed masses
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  4. #4
    Mazel tov! bronze trophy kohoutek's Avatar
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    Thank you Dan and Gary. She's on a Mac laptop and so far I've not installed Firefox, Opera, or other browsers, so just Safari. I will do as both of you suggested though and see if she can work with these solutions.

    Thanks! Very much appreciated.
    Maleika E. A. | Rockatee | Twitter | Dribbble



  5. #5
    Follow Me On Twitter: @djg gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Grossman's Avatar
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  6. #6
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    Opera has the best zoom feature of all. It's had it for a long time (like 10 years) and it's close to perfection. Firefox's implementation, although far more recent, seems to work okay. The zoom feature in Internet Explorer 7 leaves a lot to be desired (not that it matters if she's using a Mac).

    In Opera it's also easy to set a minimum font size and there's a quick toggle to disable style sheets, which can help in the case of poorly designed sites. And of course you could help her set up a simple user style sheet that ensures large fonts and good contrast.

    A screen magnifier might still be a better option, since she might need to enlarge other things than web pages.
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  7. #7
    Resident curmudgeon bronze trophy gary.turner's Avatar
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    In Safari, from the main menu, select 'view'. You will see the zoom selections.

    cheers,

    gary
    Anyone can build a usable website. It takes a graphic
    designer to make it slow, confusing, and painful to use.

    Simple minded html & css demos and tutorials

  8. #8
    SitePoint Guru mattymcg's Avatar
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    @kohoutek On a Mac it's also possible to zoom the entire screen very easily. Just hold down Control, and then scroll your mouse up (if you have a Macbook, this involves holding two fingers on the mousepad and dragging them upwards; if you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, then scroll the wheel forwards). This feature is built into OS X.

    I've found this to be very useful when wanting to zoom in on other applications, not just web sites.

    Hope that helps.

    Matt
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  9. #9
    Mazel tov! bronze trophy kohoutek's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for your very helpful information. I'm going to go through all of them and test with her what she finds the most suitable for her needs.

    We've already changed some of the settings that are default for the Mac a few months ago, but those haven't been all that optimal for her, so I'll use the insight you all have given me to find a convenient solution with which she can work best.

    Thanks again!
    Maleika E. A. | Rockatee | Twitter | Dribbble



  10. #10
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    Maybe speech synthesis(also called text-to-speech) tool can do some help.

    There is a firefox add-on that can read web pages, you can search it with key word "text-to-speech".

    Microsoft narrator is shipped with Window XP an Vista, it's a screen reader too. Panopreter is another free screen reader, it converts text files into mp3 audio files tool.

    However because narrator and panopreter read with Microsoft voices. if your OS is Windows XP, you'd better install a third party text-to-speech voice, the default Microsoft Sam voice on XP is poor, voice on Vista named Microsoft Anna is good and clearer.

  11. #11
    Mazel tov! bronze trophy kohoutek's Avatar
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    She sees well enough to not need a screen reader. We've opted for Opera and it's been great for her.
    Maleika E. A. | Rockatee | Twitter | Dribbble



  12. #12
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    Yes, Opera's excellent page zoom would go a long way. And the Voice feature might be helpful for longer passages of text, as long as it's in English.
    Birnam wood is come to Dunsinane

  13. #13
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    kohoutek, it is also worth noting that if she has a pair of speakers, Opera and Firefox (with an extension) can actually read the page to you (alike a screen reader) so if trying to read the contents of a monitor is hurting her eyes she could have the computer speak what is on the pages (useful for long content).

    Finally, Opera and Firefox under View > Styles > have the ability to change the contrast of pages so it could be just black text on a white background) eliminating the noise on pages that can detract from her ability to read

  14. #14
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    Zooming the entire page is OK, but I find the page gets a bit fuzzy, which may make life difficult for someone with impaired vision.

    Don't forget the simple ⌘ + to make the page text bigger in FF. (Using the keys instead of going to View > Zoom or each enlargement is much easier.) Even though this kind of enlarging can break some layouts, it's much better for reading text (in my view, anyhow.) I use it all the time for small text.

  15. #15
    Mazel tov! bronze trophy kohoutek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ralph.m View Post
    Zooming the entire page is OK, but I find the page gets a bit fuzzy, which may make life difficult for someone with impaired vision.

    Don't forget the simple ⌘ + to make the page text bigger in FF. (Using the keys instead of going to View > Zoom or each enlargement is much easier.) Even though this kind of enlarging can break some layouts, it's much better for reading text (in my view, anyhow.) I use it all the time for small text.
    She can't recognize those on the keyboard very well and finds key combos inconvenient, so zooming is a lot more intuitive for her. She knows where that function is and it is easier for her to memorize than key combinations.
    Maleika E. A. | Rockatee | Twitter | Dribbble




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