Magnification software

Magnification software enlarges and enhances everything on your computer screen. As enlargement increases, the amount of the original screen image reduces – but you can use the mouse (or cursor) to select where you want to focus. Many programs also include options for enhancing and customising screen colours and pointers. Some magnification software also have integrated screen readers.

Specialist software options for Windows computers include: Specialist software for Mac users are ZoomText Mac and MagniLink iMax.

What is a video magnifier?

Video magnifiers (or closed circuit televisions – CCTVs) connect a high-definition camera to a monitor. This allows you to magnify different types of printed document or handwritten text to a high level. You can read and navigate your document by moving it around on the table below the camera.

Types of video magnifiers

Desktop video magnifiers have the highest degree of magnification and often allow you to adjust the text and background display colours.

Portable video magnifiers can either be standalone devices or connect to a laptop.

Pocket video magnifiers are small enough to use on the go for reading a wide range of everyday materials including food labels, letters, bills and menus. Typical features include the ability to take a snapshot and then magnify it.

You may also want to explore dedicated reading technology that will read out printed documents using a synthetic voice. These use a scanner or a camera with optical character recognition (OCR) software to convert printed materials into electronic text. This can display on a screen, or be read out by a screen reader, or both.

Many video magnifiers also include reading technology to enable a person to have magnified information read out loud.

Many standard smartphones apps provide similar functionality to specialist options and are much cheaper if you already own one.

What is a Notetaker device?

Notetakers are small computers that have a standard or Braille keyboard, with information being either read out, displayed in Braille or both.

Screen-reading software

New computers, tablets and mobile phones now come with a screen reader already installed. Visit MyComputerMyWay to see whether this works for you.

Specialised screen-reading software offers more sophisticated support to people whose vision loss prevents them from seeing screen content and navigating around the computer.

NVDA (non-visual desktop access)

This free screenreading software provides options to hear the text on screen or to have it converted into Braille on a compatible display. Reports say it works well with web browsers, but is not so successful with Office applications.   

JAWS (Job Access With Speech)

This popular (but expensive) screen reader provides text-to-speech and Braille output for many Windows applications.

To get the best out of this technology, you need training and ongoing support.

Produced in association with AbilityNet

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