Screen magnification users rely on features and adjustments in their chosen products in order to complete tasks like finding and consuming information, conducting business, viewing videos and presentations, participating in educational opportunities, and more. Screen magnification software allows the user to increase and decrease the magnification of text and images to varying degrees. With some magnification software allowing the user to increase magnification on the screen in increments from 1x magnification all the way up to 36x magnification. Many screen magnification software programs also have features that allow users to adjust for other components affected by low vision.
Common screen magnification features
In addition to the common magnification adjustments, here are some other features that are common with screen magnification software that allow users to adjust based on their specific needs.
Mouse pointer: It is common to provide ways to mark the mouse pointer location, such as with large crosshairs or a surrounding circle as well as the pointer’s size, and color.
Typing cursor: The typing cursor can be very difficult to find, so a feature to mark the typing “I beam” with adjustable size and color marks helps to provide ease in location and contrast.
Adjustable indicators: Adjustable indication for focus of on-screen objects, like a frame around active controls, or areas of content that may be read by a computer’s speech synthesizer. This helps with orientation, especially when a combination of screen magnification and screen reader software are being used.
Brightness and contrast: Some users need the ability to control brightness and contrast. For example, viewing black text on white, and then being able to switch to yellow on black can be helpful. This is especially helpful as eyes become fatigued toward the later part of the work day.
Flexible use: Some users will magnify, explore, and use the full screen of content. Some will opt for a magnified bar that extends the full width of the window and only magnifies a certain portion of the screen, others may opt for a square magnified rectangle that moves with the mouse pointer (kind of like a magnifying glass on-screen).
Speech synthesis: Some magnification products also provide speech synthesis to allow the user to “read” portions of text. However, keep in mind that “pictures” of text are pictures, and not actually text.
Hot keys: Most screen magnification software packages have a series of hot keys that allow the user to make adjustments and navigate the screen quickly and easily.
Things screen magnification software have in common
There are many forms of “low vision” and today, there are a variety of magnification products available with various features. What they all have in common is that, most importantly, they allow people with vision issues to access information, make choices and conduct their lives, education and business needs in a barrier-free manner.
Websites, web pages, documents, and presentations should be constructed and maintained in ways that make sense structurally as well as functionally. For example, mouse-over fly-out menus and pop-ups can seriously interfere with a magnifier user’s experience.
Several of the greatest difficulties in relying on magnification software are related to: finding information, links, buttons, etc.; gathering clear information without having to traverse large non-content areas, and navigating through a lot of advertisements and clutter. Listing items by left justifying them is very helpful for the screen magnification user as it cuts down on the need for panning around the screen and hunting for the next item.