Screen magnification software is used by individuals with visual impairments to access information on a computers screen. The software enlarges any information on the screen including text, icons and graphics by pre-determined incremental factor, for example, 1.5x magnification, 2 x magnifications, 3 x magnifications, etc. Each software varies on what features it offers. Some common features of screen magnification software include:
- Smoothing jagged edges at larger magnification levels, i.e., smooth fonting
- Altering the colours on the screen to suit viewer preferences, e.g., light text on dark background
- Changing the size and colour of the pointer
Some screen magnification software now include screen reading components. This feature allows one to read text from Word documents, emails, menu items, icons, etc. This voice output is not equivalent (i.e., does not have all the features) to a full screen reading software. You can use full screen readers in combination with your magnification software. Consider both options when researching screen magnification software. Consider obtaining a demo copy of the software in order to trial all the features available before committing to one.
Points to Ponder
Features to consider when choosing a screen magnifier
- Magnification: What is its’ maximum magnification? In what increments does it magnify?
- Does it allow you for inverted colours, pointer enhancement and colour enhancements? Are they preset schemas or customizable to your preferences?
- Considering the user can only view a small part of the screen at any one time, it is important to note what magnification modes (i.e., the style of the magnified view) are available. E.g., entire screen magnified, lens type, ruler/line type, etc. Consider 1. Whether the user is able to navigate around the screen with the modes available 2. How much information is viewable to the user and whether the user is able to link it to the global context?
- Does it have a user-friendly interface (or control panel)?
- Does the user need access to multiple computer systems with screen magnification available on it? If so, consider whether the screen magnification software is available on a USB key.
- Is it compatible with the user’s operating system?
- Does it offer speech support, i.e., integrated screen reading features? If so, consider whether if offers various verbosity levels, speech synthesizers, reading zones (hear and see selected areas of a window), typing echo?
- Does it support additional languages?
- Are settings customizable to specific applications?
- Are there any accessories available with the software? E.g., large print keyboard
- Does it offer dual monitor support allowing for an expanded magnified view or to allow the second monitor to be used for sharing the magnified or unmagnified view of your desktop to another person/group?
- Is scripting available? i.e., this allows one to customize the screen magnifier’s behaviour in certain applications
- Any time saving features available? E.g., reducing the amount of time looking for items on the screen like text, icons and web links
Screen Magnifier Manufacturers
Aisquared (Windows & Mac) - ZoomText, ZoomText Express
ARTIS Software (Mac) – ARTIS Screen Tools (Screen Loupe)
AssistiveWare (Mac) - VisioVoice
BAUM Retec AG (Windows) – Galileo
Clarity (Windows) - WinZoom Magnifier/Reader, WinZoom USB
Claro Software (Windows) – Lightning Magnifiers: Lightning, Lightning with Speech, Lightning Plus, USB versions of Lightning Magnifiers, SeeIt Magnifier, ScreenRuler Suite
Dolphin Computing Systems (Windows) – SuperNova Magnifier, SuperNova Reader Magnifier, Dolphin Pen
Freedom Scientific (Windows) - MAGic
Innovation Management Group, Inc. (Windows) - The Magnifier, The Magnifier ANYWHERE YOU GO – Insert and Run Anywhere USB Drive
ION Systems, Inc. (Windows) – WebEyes (Magnification software specifically for the Internet)
Issist (Windows) - iZoom
RJ Cooper & Associates, Inc. (Windows & Mac) – Biggy, Biggy Light
Workers Collection(Windows) - Magnifying Glass Pro
Did you know? That there are built in magnifiers available for free on your computer. Learn more about the accessibility features of your computer here.
Free/Open Source Software
DesktopZoom by LittleGemsAdmin (Windows)
Large Pointers by Ace Centre (Windows)
Lighting Express by Claro Software (Windows)
Magnifixer by Blacksun Software (Windows)
Screen Crosshair by Artis Software (Mac)
Super Magnify by Soloway (Windows)
Virtual Magnifying Glass (Windows, Linux, Mac)
Additional useful links
1. Screen Magnifiers are software that presents the user with enlarged screen content, making the information and educational resources accessible to people with visual disabilities. Considering the guidelines for accessible website and web content improves the accessibility and usability for screen magnifier users.
2. People interact, learn and communicate in diverse ways. Learning opportunities are increased when flexible ways of engaging with learning materials are provided. Considering how people communicate is important for knowledge to be exchanged. Alternative formats take into account diverse ways of exchanging information.
3. The AODA legislates that educational institutions and its employees know how to produce accessible or conversion ready versions of textbooks and printed material. All website and web content must meet accessibility standards and support alternative ways to convey information. Educators, teachers and staff must be knowledgeable at communicating with people with disabilities who may use alternate formats.