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Screen Magnifiers and Screen Readers for the Elderly

Software for Poor Vision

Screen Magnifiers and Screen Readers for the ElderlyModern technology has made life easier in many respects and some of the most innovative developments have been a boon for the elderly. Gone are the days of having a caregiver read to a senior with poor vision or depending on a magnifying glasses to compensate for shortfalls in vision even with spectacles. Screen magnifiers and screen readers are two useful applications, which although different, have the same purpose – to assist the elderly or any visually impaired person with seeing or hearing the content on a screen. These applications are standard features on many platforms, even on some ebook readers. There are more unique pieces of software with additional features that have have become extremely affordable due to growing market for such applications.

What is a screen magnifier?

The elderly cannot shy away from technology as the popularity of email and social networking means that being online has become a necessity to keep in touch with loved ones. A screen magnifier is an application that enlarges parts of the screen without the need for any external device. By simply moving around a mouse or even dragging one’s finger across the screen, the magnifier box enlarges the overlayed content to a size that is easier to read. It is up to the user to decide whether they would like to go bigger or smaller and even change the style and font of the magnified selection. Some of these applications also allow for color inversion of the selected area which may help with reading more clearly and smoothing out the enlarged areas.

What is a screen reader?

Screen readers are a bit more complex piece of software than a screen magnifier but still an affordable application. It is essentially like having one’s own personal assistant reading out aloud. The software interprets the written text into audible words and reads out the content in a choice of voices that one prefers. These applications even allow users to select the gender, tone and accent of the computer-generated voice. Advances in software engineering has even allowed the application to understand punctuation and therefore read in a more natural manner allowing one to forget that it is an electronic, and not human, voice.

Reasons for Screen Magnifiers and Readers

Age brings about changes in vision, some of which are normal. The visual change that affects every person to varying degrees and starting as early as the 40s is presbyopia. It is caused by the loss of flexibility of the lens of the eye making near vision blurred. Essentially a person becomes farsighted with age and since computer screens are used in close proximity to the eye, it may be difficult to focus clearly on images and text. However, there are other age-related vision changes which can be more severe. The two common such changes is cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, both of which can lead to severe loss of vision or even total blindness. Therefore handy applications such as screen magnifiers and screen readers can help the elderly cope with daily activities even with these eyesight problems.


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