Free and Cheap Screen Magnifiers

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I am often asked to recommend screen magnifiers for students with low vision who are struggling with computer use.    There are several amazing, multi-function programs available for purchase with a wide range of features, but they can cost between $199 – $500 per installation. This becomes a pricey option, especially since we may not know exactly what each student needs and they may need the support on multiple systems across classrooms (or buildings). With that in mind, I always recommend starting with one of the freebie or low cost options available online.

Mac systems have a nice set of assistive technology supports built in, including cursor enlargement, color inversion, voice dictation and the Zoom magnifier.  Many of you may be familiar with these features, as they are also on the iPad.  http://www.apple.com/accessibility/osx/#vision

Windows systems are also equipped with similiar supports, including text-to-speech, voice dictation and a screen magnifier:  http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/make-items-on-the-screen-appear-bigger-magnifier

Here’s a link to a wonderful article by the American Federation for the Blind, comparing some of the most popular freeware and shareware (low cost) screen magnification programs. You might want to look at these as possible options for any of your low-vision students using a range of computers in different settings. These are just some of the freebie and cheaper choices as reviewed by AFB. http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw140403

The freeware options are just that: free.  But they may not have a wide range of features, offer low screen resolution or lack tech support.  The shareware options allow you to take a free trial download, then buy if you like them.  All listed here are under $29 and the authors make several specific recommendations based upon their trials.

The article suggests creating a separate user account on the computer so the files are downloaded there and then activated by the student user when they log in. We have always used this approach so the system reverts to standard settings once the user has logged off.

If you have a contained classroom or lab, you may want to put one of these on a single system so those students with low vision have immediate access to an adapted computer.  These are inexpensive options for students to use at home, as well.

 

 

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Janice Reese

Janice Reese

Director of the AT Center at LTVEC
Assistive Technology Professional
Occupational Therapist

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About Me

My name is Janice Reese and I LOVE assistive technology! I worked as an Occupational Therapist for more than 15 years, earned a Master’s degree in Education Technology, and I’m RESNA certified as an Assistive Technology Profession (ATP).  I have worked in the school system for many years now and I love using technology to enhance the lives of children with disabilities. Since my first love is teaching, I’ve spent just as much time training wonderful teachers everywhere to use these tools in their classrooms.  AT4Kids, llc was founded in 2008 in an effort to provide quality instruction and resources for teachers, therapists, student users and parents who wanted to know more about using AT.

I currently serve as Director of the Center for Assistive Technology, a state-supported program of the Little TN Valley Educational Cooperative.  LTVEC is a non-profit agency whose goal is to provide rehabilitation services and accessibility supports for students with special needs in east Tennessee.  My AT4Kids blog is designed to be as a one-stop resource for ideas and information for those wanting to learn more about the use of AT with children in the special education setting.

I hope to offer helpful hints, program and product reviews, AT recommendations, links to great new finds on the web, and lists of resources for “all things AT”.

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